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      The Cool World

      Released Apr 20, 1964 1h 45m Drama List
      83% Tomatometer 12 Reviews 44% Audience Score 100+ Ratings When Duke (Hampton Clanton), a 15-year-old member of the gang Royal Pythons, decides he needs a gun to survive on the streets of Harlem, he visits a local thug named Priest (Carl Lee). Utilizing first-time actors and true-life ghettos for scenery, Shirley Clarke's devastating semi-documentary dramatizes the life of young gang bangers in 1960s Harlem and transcends its narrative to deliver a vivid picture of inner city life. Based on the novel by Warren Miller. Read More Read Less

      Critics Reviews

      View All (12) Critics Reviews
      Richard Brody New Yorker Clarke's images endow the characters' energies with a sculptural grandeur and embrace street life with a keenly attentive, unsentimental avidity. Nov 20, 2017 Full Review J. R. Jones Chicago Reader The only thing that could make this world cooler would be a gun, and in the boy's quest to acquire one from a local hustler, Clarke shows a needy child maturing into a hardened criminal. Mar 17, 2016 Full Review Bosley Crowther New York Times As we've come to expect of Miss Clarke's pictures, it is boldly and studiously styled as a literal documentation of a particular social scene, and its attack is more that of the reporter than of the interested teller of a tale. Rated: 3/5 Mar 27, 2012 Full Review Joan Didion Vogue The absence of technique is so pronounced as to raise some doubt as to whether Shirley Clarke, who directed it, had ever before seen a movie. Mar 16, 2020 Full Review Norman Hartweg Los Angeles Free Press While Shirley Clarke's latest film, The Cool World... does not deal directly with the recent rioting that has turned Harlem into a shambles, it is nonetheless the most important document to date of the situation itself. Feb 5, 2020 Full Review Dwight MacDonald Esquire Magazine It is confused, overstated, chaotically edited and, for all its hand-held cameras and eavesdropping mikes, a conventional sob story. Aug 13, 2019 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

      View All (5) audience reviews
      William L Regarded as an early example of American film sincerely attempting to explore black culture, and to some as an early iteration of the blaxploitation genre, The Cool World may be radical in design but it's not necessarily an exceptional film in and of itself. It's an interesting depiction of an environment that has since been explored nearly to death - disaffected black urban youth resorting to crime or gangs in the absence of any other support - but the acting quality and almost laughable subplots (a young man pleading with his brother to return to school and a responsible way of life) that seem more reminiscent of an '80s Reagan-funded anti-weed film distributed to public schools really are a tough sell. The shortcomings are a shame, because there are parts of The Cool World that are genuinely engrossing. We open immediately on a radical preacher claiming black racial superiority on a street corner to an unsure crowd and follow it up with an engrossing school trip with a teacher trying to point out New York city landmarks over the raucous banter throughout the bus. Moments like these seem to fit the period exceptionally well and set some high expectations for the authenticity and intensity that the film will deliver, but then the story starts to coalesce, which between its delivery and content largely comes off as canned. A film that may have a place in history, but is more a curiosity or stepping stone than a must-see. (2.5/5) Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 06/19/21 Full Review S R 1001 movies to see before you die. A fictionalized documentary about youth in Harlem that takes issues head on and exposes and remembers the issues faced then at the time. Lawrence Fishburne was a surprise. It was on RUS. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 05/24/23 Full Review Audience Member a semi-documentary made by shirley clarke, recognized as one of the leading independent film makers of the early 60s new american cinema. starring real harlem youth and gang members, the film explores the ghetto slum life of drugs and violence without the heavy moralizing of most hollywood films of the period. brilliant editing and killer jazz score by the dizzy gillespie quintet Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/09/23 Full Review Audience Member The Incredible Birth of Blaxpoitation a stylish and grandious Movie brilliant directed and entertaining which shows lot of Afro-American Culture, the Rise of the Afro-American Acivitism, it critize Racism and the Race Divortion also great Music Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/16/23 Full Review Audience Member Nice document of Harlem life in the 60s, but pretty dull story. I don't know if it's just the sound system at the MoMA theater, but I found the sound really harsh and jumbled together - too bad since the film was part of the Jazz on Film series there. Could barely hear the music. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 01/12/23 Full Review Read all reviews
      The Cool World

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      Movie Info

      Synopsis When Duke (Hampton Clanton), a 15-year-old member of the gang Royal Pythons, decides he needs a gun to survive on the streets of Harlem, he visits a local thug named Priest (Carl Lee). Utilizing first-time actors and true-life ghettos for scenery, Shirley Clarke's devastating semi-documentary dramatizes the life of young gang bangers in 1960s Harlem and transcends its narrative to deliver a vivid picture of inner city life. Based on the novel by Warren Miller.
      Director
      Shirley Clarke
      Producer
      Frederick Wiseman
      Screenwriter
      Shirley Clarke, Robert Rossen
      Genre
      Drama
      Original Language
      English
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Apr 20, 1964, Original
      Release Date (Streaming)
      May 22, 2017
      Runtime
      1h 45m