August 19, 2004

WHAT KIND OF SWINE REMAKES A CLASSIC?:

Jimmy Cliff stays 'rock steady'Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff is touring, and the film that put him on the map is being remade. (Reed Martin, 8/20/04, CS Monitor)

His passion for performing was ignited more than 40 years ago when he was still James Chambers, an elementary school student in Kingston. "I started out as an actor in a school play, and one day when I was singing, some girls heard me and said they thought it was the radio. That was when I discovered that I had a voice.

I was rehearsing for the role of King Sugar in a play about when sugar was king in the Caribbean. I still remember my lines: 'I am monarch of all I survey/ My right there is none to dispute/ From the center all around to the sea/ I am lord of the West Indies!'" says Cliff with a laugh.

The ambition to be an international sensation is something Cliff shared with Ivan, the character he played in the 1973 film "The Harder They Come," a semiautobiographical story of a young musician's hardships that lead to a life of crime. That Jamaican film predated Bob Marley's superstardom and laid the groundwork for Marley's global popularity.

" 'The Harder They Come' was a movie without borders and it definitely helped break reggae into a wider market outside the Caribbean," says Cristy Barber, president of Bob Marley's own Tuff Gong record label, a subsidiary of Island Records. "When it first came out, the Vietnam War had ended and people in America were eager for something that was more than just protest music. They were looking for something to provide a little warmth and guidance - some 'positivity' and hope - and that's what 'The Harder They Come' did."

Cliff agrees: "It was a universal story, you know? The character I played could have been an Indian boy in Delhi or a Jewish boy in Jerusalem. And it came out at a time when it really captured the spirit and the energy in the universe. That's why it made the impact that it did."

In the Caribbean, Africa, and Latin America, the film gave the poor and disenfranchised a folk hero and awakened dreams of liberation and revolution. "When I made 'The Harder They Come,' we had just come into independence and were finding our voice as a country - as a culture - and defining a whole new society," says writer-director Perry Henzell. "Jamaicans were saying: 'We're a nation now and we have something to say.' " [...]

Such is the staying power of the film that New Line Cinema, the studio behind the "Lord of the Rings" franchise, has stepped up to produce a hip-hop-flavored remake of "The Harder They Come," directed by Stephen Williams, due out in 2005.

Cliff has no formal role yet in the remake, but he may serve as a consultant, and provide a song or two. But it doesn't disappoint him that rap - rather than reggae - fuels the soundtrack.


Why couldn't they remake Can't Stop the Music instead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 19, 2004 7:24 PM
Comments

OY Veh! I saw the original. The dialect was so thick that it had subtitles. The music was fabulous, and much of it was gospel oriented.

The problem with rap is that is simply not music.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at August 19, 2004 9:20 PM

>Why couldn't they remake Can't Stop the Music
>instead?

THE VILLAGE PEOPLE! THE GUILTY PLEASURE OF EVERYONE WHO GREW UP IN THE SEVENTIES!

o/~
Macho, macho maaaaan --
I just wanna be -- a Macho Man...
o/~

Posted by: Ken at August 20, 2004 12:26 PM

The soundtrack to this movie was the first album I bought with my own money. I was 11. It was 1974. It's still my favourite album of all time. (I was such a cool kid!)

The "dialect" (as Robert wronlgy puts it) didn't need subtitles, but they put them in for the American audiences, as they're the only ones in the English speaking world who either couldn't understand Jamaican English or would complain about it.
(In the same way that Mad Max - or "Road Warrior" as it was called in the states - was redubbed from Australian English into American! Honest!)

And the music wasn't "gospel oriented' it was reggae you ding-dong.

By the way, rap music IS music (but it's OK if you don't like it) just like Klexmer is music, although racist folk would argue otherwise ;-)

Posted by: matt kennedy at October 5, 2004 6:54 AM

oops, I meant Klezmer, not Klexmer! (damn keyboard!)

Posted by: matt kennedy at October 5, 2004 6:56 AM
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