Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 7:30pm
Shirley Clarke's The Cool World

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

The Cool World
Shirley Clarke, 16mm, 1964, 125 mins
Introduced by Amy Taubin

"Shirley Clarke’s groundbreaking films, The Connection (1961), The Cool World (1964), and Portrait of Jason (1967) are New York time capsules that seem as radical today as when they first appeared. 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. It stars Hampton Clanton as an African-American teenager who, heartbreakingly, gets caught up in a culture of gangs and guns. The film is as much as 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.

"Clarke (1920 – 1997), the daughter of a wealthy, Jewish, Park Avenue family, rebelled early and often. Like Maya Deren before her, she was drawn first to dance, then to filmmaking, and always to black culture. Her early fairly conventional short films were quickly overshadowed by The Connection, her adaptation of the Living Theater’s production of Jack Gelber’s play about a bunch of heroin addicts, some of them jazz musicians, waiting for the man. Her energy, generosity, and passion for film made her a key figure and the only woman in the New American Cinema Group, a loose knit organization founded in 1960, whose members included Jonas Mekas, Emile de Antonio, Lewis Allen, Robert Frank, Peter Bogdanovich, Edward Bland, and Bert Stern. Although a champion of Clarke’s films, Mekas was one of the five member selection committee that refused to admit them to Anthology Film Archives’s “Essential Cinema Collection,” a decision that reflects far worse on Anthology than it does on Clarke’s achievements. The exclusion, nevertheless, shut down a possible avenue for keeping the films alive. And thus kudos to Milestone Cinema for embarking on “Project Shirley” which has already issued a beautifully restored version of The Connection on DVD and is following with Ornette: Made in America (1985) next month. The rights to The Cool World are owned by Frederick Wiseman, who as yet has done nothing with them. See The Cool World, and then barrage Wiseman with emails. If that fails, boycott his films. That’s what Shirley would have done." - Amy Taubin

Amy Taubin is a contributing editor at Film Comment and Sight & Sound. She also writes frequently for Artforum.

Tickets - $7, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.