- Format: DVD-Video, PAL
- Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Run Time: 103 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 52 customer reviews
- ASIN: B007JUVVE8
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 104,059 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
Harder They Come (1972) (import)
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The greatest reggae film of all-time, The Harder They Come is the essential rebel-reggae story of a young Kingston musician whose attempt to lift himself from poverty leads to drug dealing and murder. Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff plays the young outlaw who fights back against a corrupt system, a man who finally achieves fame, and a hit record, as he spends his perilous final days on the run. Originally released by Roger Corman, the film hit paydirt through its globally influential soundtrack featuring Cliff singing "The Harder They Come", "You Can Get It if You Really Want" and "Many Rivers to Cross".
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The story is of a young man Ivan, based loosely on a real life newspaper story of the time, who comes from the country looking for work in the city. He finds only rejection and dishonesty, and is lured to a life of crime through having no other options. The oppression of poverty and corruption of the city oppresses him (and us the viewer) until he snaps, and embarks on a violent revenge to get what he feels he deserves. In the end, all he gets is a defining moment of violence in the final moments of the film. Westerns were popular in Jamaica at the time, and this is reflected in the moments of the Django movie we see Ivan watch with his friends, one of the few moments of pleasure we see him have. That movie moment is echoed effectively in the final scenes in helping us realise Ivans detachment from reality at that point.
The camerawork and locations are simultaeously obviously low budget and yet often brilliant. The hand held camerawork combines with some often excellent cinematographic eye for creating a canvas, portraying a real and vivid Jamaica that you don't see in the travel brochures. The locations were largely what they could use for little cost, and yet every one effective in adding to the tale and the background colour, often making this feel like a documentary of life in Jamaica.
The realism is helped immensely by the cast, most of whom you get the feeling are potraying real vignettes from their lifes and situations they can relate to. Jimmy Cliff is raw and full of the youthful energy his character is supposed to have.
The music is one of the defining characterisitics of the picture, and even not being a reggae fan, the music and the way in which the scenes are shot long before music videos existed take hold of you and don't let you be tempted to push the fast forward button.
Admittedly the film is dated, and the transfer to film is without any restoration and so appears washed out and full of scratches and marks - but somehow this just adds to the feeling of poverty and once you get past it, does not detract from the enjoyment of the movie.
Rent this not for a blaxpoitation movie or easy viewing, but for a defining moment in 70's cinema, in Jimmy Cliffs career, and in reggae music.
It doesn't hurt that the songs are fantastic and the film has made you care about the characters too, in its own bleak, but engaging fashion.
I actually contacted the company that released this DVD (Revolver) asking them about Christopher's comments and they responded with this very helpful reply; "The Harder The Come is fundamentally 4x3 (which is 1,33:1) as that is the way it was shot. However, for Revolver's release the 4x3 image is in a 16.9 format frame. Because of this, when watching it on your television it will appear with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. Handily enough, this means on a widescreen telly, you can do a "movie expand" and blow it up so that it loses both these bars and appears as 16x9. The only way to make the actual film 16x9 full frame (aka FHA -1,78:1) is to arc it, which is extremely costly and you also risk losing some of the original image. It would not be of any real benefit in this instance because of the way it was shot...plus the same effect can be achieved by using the options available on a widescreen TV."
As I said I am really pleased with this definitive release of a classic film and I'm confident you will be too.
I'd still recommend purchasing it, but buyer beware that this is not a definitive DVD release, just the best currently available.
One of the greatest movies - gritty, sharp and very uncomfortable.
Jimmy Cliff is brilliant, the music is awesome and the way that Jamaica and the politics of the time are presented is painfully accurate.
A work of real genius.
The film explores the life of the ordinary people in Jamaica in the 70s,and the gritty realism of life on the streets.
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