This was my first Cassavetes, so why not start with his first? Truly fascinating to see how early Cassavetes showed such legendary potential. He basically created cinematic freedom out of pure necessity, birthing a new era for american (and international) cinema. And as if not enough, "Shadows" is also a noteworthy example and a lesson in film for the no-budget filmmaker. I look forward to see his latter work.
Stylistically anticipating French New Wave, I place it somewhere on-pair with Chabrol's "Les Cousins", expressing a more grim New York setting apart from it's intellectual french counterpart. Less convincing as a figurative piece, but as significant nonetheless, given that much of it's expression can be seen in works of Scorsese ("Taxi Driver" as an obvious one) or Woody Allen.
I can see its importance and the affect it must have had back in its time, but independent cinema would be much better made later, often by Cassavetes himself. This isn't to say it feels aged, it actually very much seems ahead of it's time, and remarkably fresh. An important film in it's vision, but a scratchy and unfinished piece of work, feeling like its lacking some part of it, not quite whole.
"This film was an improvisation", we're told, which isn't really true, but art is built on such bluffing. Today, it's a film we value more for what it does than for how well it does it: the new freedoms of editing, acting, and subject matter are all here, waiting for someone to take them even higher. But I'd note that in that same year, Sirk tackled similar subject matter in a classical style. And it was better.
Inspiring piece of filmmaking that is everything but improvised. If it looks improvised, it is because it follows life as improvisation, a flowing, changeable existence devoid of the resolutions and explanations that scripted cinema often bestows upon it. There are almost no clear conclusions to be drawn from this film. A challenging but rewarding experience.