“The Cool World”, a 1963 independent film directed by Shirley Clarke is probably the most shocking, interesting, and realistic film I have ever seen. The films follows the character of Duke played by Rony Clanton. This film shows how it really was to be an African American teen growing up in urban America (Harlem, N.Y.) in the 1960’s. The gun serves as a character in the film itself, for it demonstrates manhood for the character of Duke.
By no means is this film a glorification of street life that is so common today in American pop culture. The viewer will see in this film how ugly crime is especially these characters who are driven to commit crimes because of the desperate, depressed situations of the ghetto. The character of Duke searches throughout this movie for a gun to own as almost a way to arm himself against the failures that surround him daily such as rat infested tenements, garbage filled streets, drugs, pimps, prostitutes, gangs, and over zealous cops.
If John Cassevetes is considered the new phase of film making that occurred in the late 1950’s with his superb film “Shadows” then Shirley Clarke is his female counterpart. Shirley Clarke masterfully merges documentary footage and Jazz music to the actual film that creates somewhat of a frightening, haunting, realistic portrait of urban America that I feel has not been seen very much in cinema since “The Cool World”. It is interesting to note that actors Clarence Williams III, Antonio Fargas, Gloria Foster, and Peter De Anda who appeared in this film went on to make great strides of achievement in both film and television in the 1970’s.
ericcody at IMDB
Subtitles:French (hard subs)