Saturday, January 16, 2016
The Cool World
Shirley's Clarke's film, The Cool World, was screened this week at the Museum of Arts and Design. It'll be shown again some time in March, at MoMA. Catch it.
In the hot Harlem summer of 1963, a teen-ager, Duke Custis (Rony Clanton), bored with school and dreaming of action, pesters a local mobster, Priest (Carl Lee), to sell him the gun that will make him the big man in his gang, the Royal Pythons, and win him renown as a “cool killer.” Shirley Clarke’s vibrant, unflinching, streetwise drama, released in 1964, is a masterwork of cinéma-vérité composition. Her teeming cast of mostly nonprofessional actors portrays the full spectrum of Duke’s life, from school and home to his posse and the rival gang, the Wolves, and she pitches their performances to a delicately heightened concentration...
... Clarke’s images endow the characters’ energies with a burnished, sculptural grandeur and embrace street life with a keenly attentive, unsentimental avidity. Music by Mal Waldron, performed by Dizzy Gillespie, exemplifies the range of moods, from exuberance to despair, and the story’s inevitable arc, through all its meanderings, has a rueful, epic power.
Richard Brody - The New Yorker