A Slow Descent Into Language.
Before anyone else makes the joke, let me assure you that this is not a pornographic film. Even if it were, I wouldn't watch it, because it's from Jamaica. Ever since I moved into a low income neighborhood, my jungle fever has transformed itself into jungle fear, and the once stiff erection I received from watching an ample-bottomed Nubian princess getting double penetrated by two of the lesser members of the Wu-Tang Clan has been withered by the fear of getting shot to death for figuring out the secret knock to the crack den beneath my apartment.
That's why anthropological films such as this fascinate me so. They're a chance to peer deep into a particular culture without getting a contact high and pissing dirty on one of my random monthly drug tests. The Harder They Come is the first feature film made in Jamaica by Jamaicans, and while whoever's working the camera is clearly too stoned to move too far past the 'point and shoot' style of cinematography, the film has a certain genuine quality to is that is most invigorating. Despite its ragged edges, the movie's appeal is in its ethnographic quality, making the viewer feel not so much a participant as a, I don’t know, let’s say imperialist conqueror. It's so.... informative to see the natives in their natural element, playing their tribal 'reggae' music, speaking in their charming pidgin dialect. Much more than just a curiosity for us to marvel at, this film provides great insight into life amidst the colonials.
A Mr. James Cliff enacts the lead role of Ivanhoe Martin with a level of panache and veracity previously known only to the Shakespearean players of the Elizabethan era. Relocating from his pastoral ancestral home to the urban squalor of King's Town, Ivan seeks to make his living as a minstrel, parlaying his dulcet singing voice and sense of tribal rhythm into a popular sheet music pamphlet of some kind. Unfortunately, the machinations of an unscrupulous native disc jockey and the permutations of a capricious universe lay his expectations low, and Ivan is forced to turn to a life of narcotics trafficking and highway robbery. I will resist the temptation to prostelyze, and state that had Ivanhoe been pressed into the Royal Navy, he would have learned discipline and duty along side the browned Malays of the East Indies. Instead, I’ll merely state that Ivanhoe's poor example should not be followed by other unfortunates in the same sad circumstance. Heaven forbid that the natives, inspired by Ivanhoe's actions and inflamed by the sacrilegiously sensuous music, should be driven into a frenzy, and rebel against the civilizing influence of their British rulers. While the Empire would feel the loss of that particular island colony as a dog would mourn the loss of one of its fleas, I feel that it would do the natives much more harm than good, and I fear for their Christian souls should such a travesty arise. So, in the name of God, Queen, and Country, this movie should be banned, lest the proud rule of the British Empire be challenged by those who would wish to see her destroyed. God Save The Queen!