Shadows

I mentioned to a friend tonight that I had watched this film as we coincidentally spoke of Cassavettes in general, and he told me that somehow, one time, Cassavettes once threw Pauline Kael's shoes out of a moving car they both happened to be in, out of spite. This is probably some famous story everyone knows, but I was unfamiliar. I must say, there's something improbably delightful about the questions that scenario creates--how did he get her shoes off? Why her shoes? Wouldn't some other item been easier? I'm sure I can find the details somewhere, but I prefer the mystery.

That's all neither here nor there, however.

This might have been my favorite Cassavettes thus far. Plotwise, what little plot there was, it reminded me of Imitation of Life, which created a positive connection already. Granted, that's only one slice of the film, but it created an instant favorite scene. When Tony realizes Leila's brother is black, therefore she must also be at least partially so, there's this incredibly realistic, harsh, ugly moment of what I can only describe as "black panic." Like its cousin "transpanic," it's a strange scenario wherein the perpetrator of bigotry paints him or herself unjustly as a victim. In this instance, however, Tony tries to be better than his obvious instincts, which leads to a fumbling, mortifying (for Tony) conversation with Ben in a door way. You feel both Tony's horror and Ben's outrage. It's awkward, racially charged, and yet extremely low key, as the whole film is.

This also put me in mind of the recently watched In Vanda's Room, as both shared a de-dramatized view of life. Both depicted conflict with an almost documentary eye, though Shadows is more like a casual conversation to Vanda's more sprawling discussion. They both just focus on capturing natural moments, and they don't romanticize their content. It's full of jazz and rock'n'roll, but it's not loud and brash. It's insightful about race, but not didactic.

I'm given to understand that there is another version of this, and older one. I'm intrigued by it as well, and even though I've heard Cassavettes thinks this one was the better version, I will have to check out the original if ever it gets released.