The Sunday Cult Film Corner – The Harder They Come (1972)

17 Jul

Ahhh what a lovely weekend!

Despite my protestations yesterday that everyone who was downtown was just too damn happy, seems to have fallen on deaf ears, so if you can beat ’em, join ’em, that’s what i say. And along with all this summery weather, i also find myself listening to a lot of decent reggae and dub music. the perfect soundtrack to heat and sloth. And if we’re talking about reggae, then there’s one film that links heavily with the burgeoning reggae culture of the late 60s/early 70s. And that film is the subject of this weeks Sunday Cuuuuuuuult Film Coooooooornerrrr! Ladies and gentlemen, i give to you THE HARDER THEY COME.

Directed by Perry Henzell, THTC stars reggae singer Jimmy Cliff as Ivanhoe Martin, a poor man from the country trying to get a break in Kingston, Jamaica. When his efforts to find work fail, he uses his singing skills to try to become a reggae star. But on the verge of making it big, he finds that the only way he’ll get any airplay is if he signs over all the rights to his music. Frustrated, he turns to marijuana dealing and a life of crime, and when he kills a police officer, he goes on the run, becoming Jamaica’s most wanted man and a folk hero for the poor.

This film has many aspects to its narrative. It’s a social commentary on the poverty and conditions that most Jamaicans live under, it’s a love story, it’s a crime drama, and also a documentary on the music scene and its exploitative nature. It’s ultra low-budget seems to add a grainy “authentic” feel to the scenes, but despite that, this is a complex story. And at the centre of it all is Jimmy Cliff,. While not a natural actor, he exudes a likeable charm that masks the slightly murkier parts of the characters.

when i saw this for the first time on the BBC back in the early ’90s, it actually came with subtitles, due to the thick patois Jamaican accents. The version here doesn’t have subs, so it may be a little heavy going for some people to understand, but the concentration is worth it. THTC probably ranks as one of the best films about music there is.

So get on your Jimmy cliff records, sit back and let the beat wash over you….


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Posted by on July 17, 2011 in Film


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