November 11, 1959 [Shadows]

One John Cassavetes--I saw him just a few weeks ago as Johnny Staccato in the T.V. series of the same name, jazzy detective stuff--has made a movie--and again he plays it like jazz, an improvisation called Shadows, Negro and Caucasian cool kats-n-kittens wandering around as city folk will do, staring at statues and each other, kidding the Clydes who are earnest but timid when it comes to an America without a Whites-Only door.

Sometimes his game little troupe didn’t quite carry it, but Cassavetes loves them, and New York, so we forgive the missteps and frayed edges--the opening alone worth it, loud music, everybody talking at once in the crowded room, cigarette smoke billowing like waves, the lights bright, the night out there grainy and rich--black and white again, one next to the other.

So where are the Shadows? The credits tell us the picture is “Presented by Jean Shepherd’s Night People”--and there they are, in the shadows--we barely catch a glimpse of them as we hop on the train or cram into the subway or coffee shop--or movie theater, going about our business while they go about theirs, sunglasses and worn-out wool coats loose in the early winter wind.

Cassavetes has done a good thing here, stowing away a snapshot of these shadows, before the new decade begins and we move on like Americans: not looking back, eager to clear the table and start all over again--but the sentimentalist in me will be happy to keep those shadows in mind, their tired smiles and softly snapping fingers a little blurry in a black and white movie.


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