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John Casavetes' Shadows back to light at Rotterdam

Legendary first version of Cassavetes' SHADOWS screened in Rotterdam


The legendary 'lost' first version of John Cassavetes' ground-breaking first feature SHADOWS (1959) will receive its first screening in over forty five years (presented by its finder Professor Ray Carney) as part of the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2004's 'Cinema Regained' programme. In 1960, Jonas Mekas described this first version of SHADOWS as 'the most frontier-breaking American feature film in at least a decade.' (The Village Voice 'Movie Journal' column, January 27, 1960).



Screened only three times in 1958 at New York's Paris Theatre, John Cassavetes' first version of SHADOWS was displaced by the second version that premiered in late 1959. This second version is the one that we know as one of the great milestones in American independent cinema, as the first film by one of its greatest auteurs and as one of the great 'beat generation' films. However, Jonas Mekas, film-maker and writer, famously announced 'I have no doubt that whereas the second version of SHADOWS is just another Hollywood film..however inspired..the first version is the most frontier-breaking American feature film in at least a decade.' This first version seemed in the meantime to have totally disappeared. Over forty years, it has become one of the legendary lost films, the 'holy grail' of independent cinema.

Now, thanks to the indefatigable searching of Professor Ray Carney, the leading expert on Cassavetes life and work, the first version has finally been found and will be presented by him as a highlight of IFFR's special 'Cinema Regained' programme. For the first time in forty years, thanks to this major discovery, audiences will be able to judge for themselves the truth of Mekas's remarks. It will also make a fascinating contrast with the festival's screening of Ken Jacobs' STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH, also much of it shot in the late 50s and featuring similar marginal New York 'beat' types.

The 'Cinema Regained' sidebar is a growing section of the International Film Festival Rotterdam devoted to restorations, re-discoveries, to documentaries on film-makers and film-making and to films that re-work, re-present and re-vitalise the cinema of the past. It is a section in which it is hoped to present some of the milestones of the independent cinema that Rotterdam supports: as this year with SHADOWS, the short films of Santiago Alvarez and King Hu's 1966 masterpiece DRAGON GATE INN (along with Tsai Ming-liang's GOODBYE, DRAGON INN) and 'D-LIGHT', a series of compilation programmes re-presenting Dutch experimental filmmaking from 1960 till the present date. Cinema Regained also includes Thom Andersen's recent documentary LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF along with screenings of Kent Mackenzie's 1961 semi-documentary feature THE EXILES.

Another highlight of the Cinema Regained programme will be the screening and talk by Peter Kubelka, in which this well known figure within the avant-garde will present the international premiere of his newly released film DICHTUNG UND WAHRHEIT (POETRY AND TRUTH). It contains collected pieces from publicity films which have a common element: they show actors before they start and then begin to play what they are directed to represent. On the occasion of the international premiere in Rotterdam, Peter Kubelka will present DICHTUNG UND WAHRHEIT (POETRY AND TRUTH) with a lecture that connects so-called found-footage-cinema with the prehistoric emergence of all art through found objects or events created by nature.

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