The Harder They Come (4/24)

The epochal cultural moment that gave America its first true taste of Jamaica — and the film that made Jimmy Cliff an international superstar! Four decades on, The Harder They Come is still electric with the feeling of cinematic discovery right from its opening moments. This rare blend of crime drama and musical forms a kind of island Scarface, as Cliff’s country-boy-in-search-of-fame worms his way through Kingston in the successive guises of laborer, recording artist, convict, ganja dealer, and finally, outlaw folk hero on the lam. Amongst its perfectly balanced mix of police shootouts, love story tenderness, lush scenery, music biz vérité, and dirt-under-the-fingernails street-level reality, the film also comes fully-equipped with one of the most fantastic soundtracks in movie history — one that finds Cliff at the peak of his creative powers. Before The Harder They Come, our collective American perception of a “foreign film” was narrowly limited to the Bergmans and the Kurosawas of the cinematic sphere; this game-changing slice of ultra-coolness forever blew the doors off that notion, and still hasn’t lost a single drop of its cool, its edge, and its ability to make you dance.
Dir. Perry Henzell, 1972, 35mm, 103 min.

Watch the trailer for “The Harder They Come”!
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