Sculpture Garden

Still from_ Shadows_. 1959. USA. Directed by John Cassavetes. Courtesy of Faces International

Shadows 119

Still from Shadows. 1959. USA. Directed by John Cassavetes. Courtesy of Faces International

Curator, Rajendra Roy: This is Rajendra Roy, Chief Curator of Film here at MoMA, and we are talking about John Cassavetes', Shadows, which was shot right here in MoMA’s Sculpture Garden in 1957.

Excerpt from _ Shadows_:

“I don’t know what you wanted to come here for Dennis.This joint is nothing put a place for a bunch of sexless women who don’t have any love in their life. A lot of big deal professors. A lot of creeps trying to show off how much they know.”

“You couldn’t be wronger!”

Rajendra Roy: The Garden scene, it’s like, oh yeah these are a bunch of bros, bro-ing it out, expressing their own insecurity about not knowing where they are and how to describe it through this toxic masculine dialogue.

When they are confronted with this figure of a woman that is both abstracted and hyper-sexualized for them, you start to see different characters, some who can not get past their toxic masculine view. And maybe one who is actually seeing it through different eyes and saying no no no no no this isn’t quote “a woman” this is something that’s addressing femininity, it’s addressing form in ways that I don’t have to sexualize.

Excerpt from Shadows: “I’m not gonna hurt it, it’s made of iron. A chick like that may destroy me.”

“Bennie what’s the matter with Tom is he crazy or something?”

“Nah Dennis!”

“Someday you may marry a girl that looks like that.”

“Oh god forbid!”

“It’s not funny Dennis!”

“It’s not funny!”

Rajendra Roy: So Cassavetes did approach the museum with his intention or desire to shoot here and the museum was kind of like “Well, go for it, but don’t get in the way and make it quick”.

You know at this point Cassavetes was a somewhat known actor but this was his first directorial effort and there wasn’t really a script to speak of, so it wasn’t something that could have been vetted in the traditional way, there had to have been a leap of faith on the part of the Museum.

I’ve read that Martin Scorcese said, after Shadows we didn’t have any excuses anymore. We had to make our movies. Cassavetes basically threw down the gauntlet and was like “Tell your stories, tell your stories in the places that you know with the people that you know, with your crowd, and if people say they’re not going to pay for it, do it yourselves.”

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