Chasing Shadows

Title still from Cassavetes' Shadows, image: Ray Carney, cassavetes.comBU professor Ray Carney tells about his maniacal decades-long search for a copy of the "original version" of John Cassavetes' first feature, Shadows, in a riveting, suspenseful, and enlightening Guardian article. It feels like he doesn't leave out a single twist or turn (i.e., it's both entertaining and long).

Here's the trailer: Cassavetes was so displeased with audience reaction to late 1958 screenings of Shadows, he re-shot much of the footage in early 1959 and re-edited it with some "original" footage to make the version we know today, aka the "second version."

With little more than a passing mention of a single, existing print of the "original version" to go on, Carney embarked on an increasingly ridiculous search for "the holy grail of Independent Cinema." When that wore thin, he took to reconstructing the original "from the inside" by interviewing all the cast, crew, and audience members he could find, and by scouring the second version for minute forensic evidence--including, literally, comparing the length of shadows in each shot to determine the time of day--of Cassavetes' shooting and editing choices. The result: Carney's now the go-to guy for Cassavettes' process, and at least he published a book in 2001 with BFI.

Whatever of the outcome; the article makes for great reading.

Buy Shadows--the second version--on DVD. Check out Carney's acadamn fine fan site,

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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