Director Shirley Clarke
Year 1964
Starring Rony Clanton, Carl Lee, Clarence Williams
Run Time 105min
More Info IMDb

Shirley Clarke's second film THE COOL WORLD is a powerful and stark semi-documentary look at the realities of 1960's Harlem life filled with drugs, violence, and the anguish of American racism. Against this background, teenaged Hampton Clanton has big ambitions: to get a gun, take over Harlem gang The Royal Pythons and return them to active fighting. The first fiction film to be shot entirely on location in Harlem, THE COOL WORLD was based on a novel by Warren Miller adapted for the screen by Clarke’s frequent collaborator Carl Lee and produced by legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman. The incredible soundtrack is by towering Jazz titan Dizzy Gillespie. The film is as much a document of uptown street life just before the period of Black Power as it is an early landmark in the history of American neo-realism. Still considered by many to be Clarke's best feature, THE COOL WORLD still feels as radical today as when it first appeared.

"THE COOL WORLD is a loud, long and powerful cry of outrage..."
– Judith Crist, The New York Herald Tribune

"Shirley Clarke's vibrant, unflinching, streetwise drama is a masterwork of cinéma-vérité composition. The images endow the characters' reckless energies with a burnished, sculptural grandeur and embrace street life with a keenly attentive, unsentimental avidity."
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker

"THE COOL WORLD employs musical expressiveness to pierce the naïve heart of Harlem's gangland. The result is a biliously black and white fairy tale, a verityé dream. (A purposeful contradiction, in other words.) "
– Joseph Lanthier, The L Magazine

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