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The Rhetoric of Reggae in Artful Cinema for the World

Michael Long

Perry Henzel's The Harder They Come is credited with a significant and unique role in introducing American audiences to reggae. Whereas earlier cinematic crossmarketed films like A Hard Days Night or Help! were adjunct to and dependent on a group's previous commercial musical success, Henzel's film was for many an introduction to reggae and both precursor and impetus for its international impact and commercial popularity.   The film's status as a cult classic and phenomenon, to the extent a phenomenon can be explained, perhaps rests on its lack of commercial pretentions or promotional glitz, and thus its authenticity.  The rhetoric of this film -- its images, words, and music in complementary array -- is rhetoric in the best sense because it uses the power of language to reveal, not to disguise, the unconscionable constraints on the lives of poor Jamaicans.  Principally it's a film by a Jamaican artist about some musically and culturally significant events happening in Jamaica at the time, and though it is formulaic as films tend to be, it also encompasses all of the majors themes and conflicts that define and swirl around reggae music: spirituality, sensuality, commercialism, social justice, the messiah, and even Armageddon, though its tenor is decidedly secular

            The genius of the film is that it synthesizes a multitude of cultural and musical elements and still manages to function rhetorically on separate but parallel levels of communication.  The fundamental message for Jamaican audiences was to document, authenticate, and value the Jamaican reality.  As Henzel notes in his running commentary, a special feature of the DVD, Jamaicans cheered the film's opening scenes wildly, simply because they recognized themselves and their world in a powerful global medium that had paid them no mind until then. "There is no thrill in moviedom like people seeing themselves on the screen for the first time."  The experience and the legacy of colonialism accustoms people who suffer it to literature and film that depicts the lives and perspectives of the colonizers, not the colonized.  As Jamaica Kincaid explains in a memoir of a Carribean childhood, all of her reading was from books set in England.  Her land and its people were not worthy of literary attention. While finally getting such cinematic attention is a joyful, liberating, and affirming interaction for the Jamaican audience, it has an ironic dimension too in that the downpressed are joyous because at last they see themselves if not through the downpressor's lens, at least on his screen.  It's a variation on the complimentary con, "You oughta be in pictures" (that phrase comes just before you get fucked) or the next step after Descartes that holds, "I'm on TV; therefore, I am." Jamaicans were every bit as real before, or moreso, but without realizing it.  Nevertheless, much of the electric energy of this film springs from the hero's pursuit of a dream ironically woven from the oppressor's cloth. He wants to be a star because those in control shape the avenues to success. 

While the Jamaican audience celebrated the familiar images, events, and characters inhabiting the film, American and European viewers were seduced by a new world. Ivan's story sets out as a classic poor-rural-boy-comes-to-the-city-to-pursue-his-dream: fame, fortune, and the girl.  But something is deeply awry in Kingston, as it was rotten in Denmark, and it is this fundamental misalignment that skews Henzel's vision and his story away from happily-ever-after, and toward disturbing violence and triumph symbolized through defiance and ultimately, death in blazing glory.  The socio-political setting in which Ivan sets out to pursue his dream --"I can sing you know, Mama"Ńis not just challenging.  It is irredeemably corrupt and unjust, well beyond deliverance via the luck and pluck that drive rags-to-riches stories in more wholesome settings.  The obstacles Ivan confronts call for revolution rather than persistence, but this stark and violence-laced reality is communicated through the reggae blend of hope, faith, and realism. Despite the violence that Ivan embraces in anger and action against the oppressor and in rhetorical martyrdom too, the upshot of the music and the plotline in this consciously cinematic film is to advance revolution through the rhetorical impact of consciousness raising images, language, and music. As the aged Rasta said: "When we come against Babylon, we come with words and sound of power."  Perry Henzel took note and added cinema to the mix.

Henzel begins deliberately with an ecological image to symbolize a social and spiritual malaise.  A long shot of the bus bearing Ivan to the city shows no tourist- brochure-Jamaican-seascape, but a hazy shoreline of tall but topless coconut trees, amputated to end shockingly in nothingness, rather than graceful breeze-laced fronds:  "We were looking for a symbol of something wrong with the countryside," explains Henzell. The coconuts had all "lost their heads" due to a "plague," providing a convenient image suggestive of the circumstances driving Jamaican youth from the countryside to Kingston. Henzell's inspiration was the spirit of this youth, their "defiance of poverty," their ability, as he observed, even in the vast hubub of Miami's airport to radiate a powerful and distinctive "vibe." He concluded that Jamaican youth exuded a "culture that's really worth projecting to the world," and so he wrote, directed, and produced a film to project it, not just to an opening night theater packed three to a seat in Kingston, but across North America, Japan, and Europe too. 

 The bus bearing Ivan travels just briefly along the troubled coast before it comes to hornblaring loggerheads with a truck in a typical Jamaican highway scene, familiar to the local audience as an everyday archetypal traffic confrontation, but symbolic also of human conflict, of opposing forces, interests, and aspirations, of Babylon as a roadblock, obstructing the passage and progress of the people.  On the literal level, the two drivers quickly negotiate a settlement and both vehicles proceed, but on the symbolic level Ivan is arriving in Kingstown with high expectations set against powerful forces arrayed against him, forces virtually unchallenged in their ability to dash every hope of a countryboy like Ivan. The church, the police, the music business, the ganja trade, the unemployment, the poverty  -- create together an environment where for most Jamaicans success is at best just a less onerous kind of slavery.  As Ivan rolls expectantly into hellhole Babylon, Jimmy sings, "You Can Get It If You Really Want," juxtaposing the na•ve, optimistic, energetic, cocky and demanding spirit of youth against centuries of successful downpression.  As Abby Hoffman said of his Yippie days: "We were young, na•ve, arrogant, and obnoxious, but we were right."  Ivan, had he lived to look back, might have said the same.

This opening scene rhetorically sets the stage for the jarring and violent confrontation subsequently played out in images, music, and lyrics: the bus and truck screeching to a halt, nose to nose, leaving no visual avenue for the two opposing forces to accommodate one another; the simplistic and reassuring rhythm and melody of "You Can Get It If You Really Want," seducing Ivan and the audience toward faith and hope; the cautionary caveat -- "but you must try" just hinting vaguely at the scope and depth of the difficulties to be surmounted before "you'll succeed last."  These elements work in consort to communicate the complexity of the problem: the image suggests impasse, the music suggests a leisurely stroll; the lyrics suggest an intense struggle.  The pattern is that of thesis followed by antithesis resulting in synthesis. Together they leave Ivan and the audience hoping for social justice despite the adverse odds.  Reggae music as a whole encompasses a similar concoction: generally optimistic and affirming, arguably illogically so, it persists in expressing deep displeasure with appalling injustice in an effort to envision and advocate, if not literally enact, a more egalitarian world.  The social transformation implied as a result of confrontation and struggle is embodied in religious Rasta form as a millenarian coming of Jah, and in secular Rasta form as this-worldly revolution or social progress.  With Jah in control, godly omnipotence trumps Babylon without contest, but when the mission is a human undertaking (overtaking the Rastas might insist), violence and death are a likely part of the struggle, and senseless anarchy a potential outcome. Reggae expresses, explores, and blends these alternative scenarios, softening the potential for violent revolution with that for divine intervention, and juxtaposing the anarchic and counterproductive elements of the rude boy culture against its appeal as a reservoir of a redemptive rebelliousness sweeping away the entrenched corruption and exploitation that mires the masses in unrelenting poverty. 

While the coconut trees and the vehicular clash are the principle rhetorical devices at the outset, Ivan himself is the flashpoint for every rhetorical communiquˇ to follow, and the medium is the message, from facial expression and body language to dialogue and, of course, the reggae.  Whether the song is directly Ivan's (or Jimmy Cliff's) or not, the music advances plot and theme through the character and the story of Ivan Martin.  From the moment he steps off the bus, Kingston assaults Ivan and Ivan assaults Kingston.  "Talk with Phillip Waite for a Better Life," one billboard exclaimed from the roadside on the bus ride in, and "express yourself" Scotty sings in the second reggae track, but Ivan is gathering and dropping his luggage, the red light's hollering, "Stop," the pushcart man is rolling off with Ivan's pilfered belongings, including the mango for Momma, and "Stop this train, I want to get off" is the current reggae refrain.  The contrast with "You can get it" could not be more stark, but the rational desire to retreat from the confusion, the victimization, and the unfavorable odds is an irony for only the audience to appreciate.  Ivan may be a countryboy, but he is not cowed by Kingston.  He doesn't even consider that perhaps he should be.  He is learning hard lessons fast but still forging ahead with aplomb.  Just before conning and robbing him, the pushcart man advises, "You have money, you can go anywhere; without money you're fucked."  Ivan, prevented by traffic from pursuing the thief, heads for Momma's on Milk Lane, not a coincidental street name, but yet another irony in that his mother has neither milk nor honey: "Go back to country," she warns realistically, knowing the harsh urban scene. "I can't help you," she warns, but she relents and does, giving him the name of a preacher who may help him find a job, but only "if you behave yourself," she cautions. 

This is a rich scene rhetorically and repeats the pattern of juxtaposing opposites to catalyze a synthesis advancing plot and theme.  Ivan is dreaming of fame and fortune via musical success; his mother calls that a joke and demands, "How are you going to live?" She offers that crime is a more likely avenue, offending Ivan's pride:  "Momma, why do you say that about me?" Ivan accepts the preacher referral skeptically, clearly suspicious of preachers, but conceding that perhaps he does need a job, and he exits his mother's hovel lying to avoid admitting to her or to himself what a struggle surviving in Kingston promises to be. When she asks expectantly if he has brought a mango from the country, he replies, "Mango season bad this year," ashamed that due to his countryboy naivete the thieving pushcart man is likely savoring Momma's mango at that very moment.

Playing softly behind this mother and child reunion is the Melodian's soulful "River of Babylon."  As Henzell explains, the music somewhat magically and serendipitiously fell into place as he was crafting this film.  This pleases him both as an artist and an entrepreneur because, as he notes, he has "had a piece of the album ever since."  Originally, Cliff had agreed to do the full soundtrack, before he'd even been cast in the starring role, boldly replying to Henzell, "Can I do it?  I can do anything!"  In fact, he completed just half of the songs and Henzell went to bed sick in despair for the weekend, but jotted down in a daze every song he thought might fit and put it all together the following week. "River of Babylon" is the beginning of the coincidentally and artistically brilliant interplay between the reggae and the cinematic elements, not that the first two cuts are flawed, just that they are competent and workable rather than magical and destined to be. "You Can Get It" is raucous, upfront, and obvious in its exuberance and its thematic statement; "Draw Your Breaks" is really about a romantic breakup, but is applied to the Ivan-gets-ripped-off scene:  "Bye, bye" means in the film's context farewell to his belongings, not his girl.  "River of Babylon" functions on a higher rhetorical level.  It is an historical and psychological backdrop, as well as a musical one, for the reunion between Ivan and his mother.  They and their relationships are a product and an example of the diaspora the song laments and records.  The low volume casts this song perfectly in the role of musical and thematic undercurrent because that's exactly what history is, a powerful influence on lives and relationships even when it remains tacit, subliminal, or subconscious.  The song, with echoes of the Negro spiritual, contrasts captivity in Babylon with redemption in Zion.  Here in Babylon, the wicked "require from us a song," or service to Babylon, but "how can we sing King Alfa song in a strange land?"  The rhetorical answer and reply is to chant down Babylon in classic, ritualistic, and prayerful fashion: "Sing it out loud/ Sing a song of freedom sister/ Sing a song of freedom brother/ We gotta sing and shout it/ We gotta talk and shout it/ Shout the song of freedom now/ So that the word of our mouth/ And the meditation of our heart/ Be acceptable in thy sight/ Over I."  Babylon may sever or strain spiritual, cultural, and historical ties and make demands contrary to them, that is,  "require from us a song," but there is not only a way to "sing King Alfa's song in a strange land," there is also a spiritual necessity and an obligation sing it. What seemingly can't be done, must and will be done.  The result is to demand, articulate, and musically create the freedom sought. This is the story of Ivan Martin and the story of reggae encapsulated -- beginning with longstanding oppression and little hope, and progressing through the power of rhetoric informed with individual and collective spirit, I and I, to a new reality, re-imagined and thus re-created. 

            The film, of course, is just beginning as "River of Babylon" plays behind Ivan's visit to his mother in the ghetto, the prelude to his first efforts to make a better life in the city.  The following track, "Many Rivers to Cross," like the opening, "You Can Get It," is by Jimmy Cliff and not de-emphasized by higher volume dialogue, suggesting both a close association with the central character, Ivan, and an overt, rather than an underlying message.  Babylonian rivers figure once again, but now the context is less historical and more focused on Ivan's immediate problem, getting by in the big city.  Both Cliff and Henzell were exceptionally pleased with the effect of this song within the film.  Cliff confides that he finished writing the song on the way to the studio and was proud that the song was recognized for its power and used in the film.  Henzell offers that "you couldn't imagine a better song" to show the Jamaican struggle with poverty as it is.  Realism and authenticity are prominent elements in the film's style and its success, and prominent themes in Henzell's socially engaged cinematic aesthetic.  Henzell, as a filmmaker, not surprisingly sees the images as primary, insisting: "You can't have pictures to illustrate music; you have to have music to strengthen pictures."  What he means, of course, is not that a flip-flop in the relationship is impossible, but that it would result in a degraded film, one in which images were contrived to fit songs.  The preferred relationship, and the one so aptly demonstrated in the scenes summarizing the struggle of Ivan and other Jamaicans to wrest a living from an economy stacked against them, uses music to complement and intensify the resonance of images that are often spontaneous eruptions of reality simply captured by the camera, rather than images directed, rehearsed, and performed for it.

This is not to say that the film is largely unscripted, though there is some debate regarding how much of a script there was, the relative contributions of Trevor Rhone and Henzell, and what relationship any script might have to Henzell's subsequent novel, Power Game (Collins).  Henzell's attitude and pespective are crystal clear, however, in explaining that he deliberately sought both unscripted and undirected images and untrained actors in an effort to more accurately portray Jamaican life in the early 1970s. The validity of Henzell's theory for achieving realism is debatable, but as applied in this film it was a success.  He claims that professional actors make him nervous and that, "you can always tell."  He chose Cliff for the lead role especially because "he had lived it," coming to Kingston from the country and pursing a career in the music business, getting paid little or nothing for his first song, just like Ivan Martin.  The sense of realism pursued through casting and by allowing free rein and spontaneity to emerge from the actors and the setting is underscored by Cliff and Henzell.  Cliff tells of playing his scenes with the Preacher by thinking of him as "a teacher I didn't like in school."  His adversary Longo, who confiscates Ivan's bike and vows to take his girl, "was a convicted rapist" so he wasn't just reading a script when he spoke of picking the ripe fruit from the Preacher's cherry tree.  Henzell chose fighters, not stunt men, for the dual with knife and broken bottle.  He simply told them to fight, "do what you," though the scene as finally edited included shots filmed at several times and places.  He used a real preacher and real worshippers, writhing in religious ecstasy, for the church scene during which Ivan dreams of making love with Elsa in the sea.  His camera simply follows Ivan and his cardplaying city tour guide into the gambling den: "What you see is what was there," including the man passed out on a table in an empty room. 

            Despite Henzell's theory, most of the short scenes strengthened by "Many Rivers to Cross" are contrived: beginning with the affluent housewife who has no work for the homeless and hungry Ivan and then berates him for begging, ending with the liveried, tourist hotel doorman who shoos him away as a pesky annoyance, and punctuated by the savvy artichoke vendor in the marketplace who brandishes her knife menacingly at his wrist as he contemplates liberating some spiky produce.  Nevertheless, the center of the song and of the scene sequence is a remarkable unscripted segment of young and old Jamaicans scavenging for anything useable, saleable, or edible at the dump. Here Henzell's method and theory shine and we see through Ivan's eyes a vision of the grim future that may await him.  While principally a melancholy ballad of no prospects and hard luck too, and one in which for the sake of rhyme and perhaps old times, the white cliffs of Dover are featured, there are a few lines which quietly capture some of the consequences of oppression and foreshadow Ivan's development as an outlaw hero: "There have been times when I find myself / Thinking of committing some dreadful crime . . . And I merely survive/ Because of my will."  The appeal of this film in Jamaica and abroad is in its frank expression of this reality.  As Cliff notes, many expatriate Jamaicans were disturbed that Henzell tore down the curtain of touristy island images to reveal the unsightly ghetto, but Henzell wanted to reveal that truth and he succeeded.

            "Many Rivers" concludes the film's exposition, which ranges from the heights of exuberant optimism and determination at the opening to "Oh no, screwed by Babylon again" because "I can't seem to find my way over."  Discouraged for the moment, Ivan puts pride aside and turns to the Preacher his mother mentioned, but soon he has a jaunty yellow hat, a girlfriend, a job of sorts, and an abandoned car as a kind of headquarters (he may even live in it): Ivan's attitude is back.  But the pressure is on because Elsa is partial to good Christians over rude boys, and he has missed choir practice. She's not particularly swayed by Ivan's rejoinder that "Christians are rude too."  Furthermore, the surly Longa is also after her, though not with his charm, and the Preacher is hot in pursuit too, though a bit more subtly than either of the younger men. 

We hear "Johnny Too Bad" first on Ivan's radio as he works, and clearly this is the culture and milieu that draws him, both the music and the rebellious themes it touches, however gingerly.  The song is moralistic -- crime never pays -- but when humiliation is the alternative even self-destructive rebellion is romantically alluring.  Just as the song mocks rude boys --"Johnny you're too bad" (italics added) -- so Longa and the Preacher harass Ivan for the dreamy gaze Elsa and reggae inspire in him --"Before you get a gun, get the hammer" -- "Don't you boogie-woogie in my yard."  

Soon Ivan is in trouble with both men over Elsa, the bicycle, and the music, especially Ivan's song.  Despite the pleasant pop flavor of "The Harder They Come," its message is unrelentingly secular and revolutionary.  It rejects "pie in the sky" otherworldly rewards for getting "my share, what's mine" in the here and now.  It insists that the oppressors will ultimately pay: "The harder they come, the harder they fall one and all." It vows: "I'd rather be a free man in my grave/ Than living as a puppet or a slave."  Finally, it hints obliquely at Christ-like martyrdom: "And they think that they have got the battle won/ I say forgive them Lord they know not what they've done."

This title song is pivotal in terms of plot and theme.  It alienates Ivan and Elsa from the Preacher after she gives him the church key to rehearse it in that  hallowed space in the night, and it leads to the bloody fight with Longa over the bicycle; and subsequently to court, the lashing, and the recording session formalizing and releasing to the world Ivan's creed and manifesto.  Henzell argues that the fight is too bloody, that Ivan's repeated slashing of Longa to the studied percussion of "Don't . . . fuck . . .  with . . .  me"  is overdone and that, in retrospect, he would shoot it again in more subdued fashion. He is the filmmaker second guessing himself, but in fact he had it right the first time.  The scene is shocking because it needs to be.  Ivan is driven by the violence of the oppression against him and he responds in extreme fashion, messy though it may be.  This scene removes the candy coating which allows for oppression as a given, in order to reveal oppression as a violation of humanity, a violation calling for countermeasures not necessarily polite or moderate. All that follows, follows from this song and this fight.

The song articulates an uncompromising demand for a just earthly reward but it also symbolizes economic, commercial, and media recognition: celebrity and its attendant material benefits.  As a demand it is revolutionary, but as a symbol it is clichˇd fame and fortune, business as usual.   The narrative and the reggae play these alternate visions against one another toward a synthesis that is less than a call for violent uprising but more than acquiescence in the status quo of sharply limited opportunity. After Ivan suffers and seethes through Hilton's flat take-it-or-leave-it $20 offer for the hit song he thought would deliver him, he enters a new psychological space consistent with the uncompromising and confident rancor of his anthem.  Initially, he will not sign Hilton's contract, a revolution in itself, but when he does finally settle for twenty, it does not signify that he accepts Hilton's boast: "I control this business . . . I make the hits."  On the contrary, Ivan's faith is that his hit will set him free, that it will prove a prophecy marking the end of "the oppressors . . . trying to keep [him] down."  Ivan's cockiness on this score is first starkly evident as he cajoles money from Elsa who has been diligently seeking work all day while he has been hanging out.  He is finished begging for work now that he has a record, he insists, even though, as Elsa points out, he has no prospect of getting another dollar for it.  Soon he follows his economic prospects to the ganja trade, and once again balks at playing the game, refusing to pay Jose his full cut. 

When the police are called to get him in line, he begins a murderous cop-killing spree inspired in part by his memory of the earlier lashing.  Ivan is out of control, "crazy" as Elsa recognizes, but he is as excited now about his celebrity as a gunman as he was earlier over making a hit record, proud to have killed three instead of one policeman and eagerly awaiting a star role in a newsflash.  Thus the vicious slashing of Longa proves not an aberration but the beginning of a consistent routine.  Ivan is standing up for his rights not in a politic or crafty way, but with shock and awe, with overwhelming force as long as he can command it.  This might be despicable except that the purveyors and apologists for Babylon are more objectionable still. We can't help applauding Ivan when he turns crass commercialism against the beast itself.  Even Hilton, who is contemptuous of Ivan, recognizes that this outlaw and his song are too marketable to resist. 

The "Pressure Drop" scene reiterates the reversal; Jose,who sets out to put Ivan away, ends up running for his life while Ivan smirks and the crowd cheers.  The message is clear, and consistent with the title song: justice will be done.  Jose is not so much the oppressor as a collaborator, participating in and profiting from the oppression of his brothers.  "Know that you doing wrong," the song warns, and as a consequence, "I say pressure drop/ Oh pressure oh yeh pressure gonna drop on you." 

Now Ivan has won battles against the police, the music czars, and the drug lords.  He has risen to the level of at least a pop culture legend, securing easily fifteen minutes of fame, perhaps considerably more.  He is a chimera, a graffiti based spirit; he is "everywhere."  But this is a spaghetti western as well as a spiritual parable, escapism as well as rhetorical enlightenment, an old story ( Rhygin's) as well as a new one, and so the triumph of right and the underdog (overdog?) can only be sustained ephemerally via intense fantasy.  The spirituality and the Rastafarianism are woven in quietly in the final reel, never upsetting the essentially secular context, but still suggesting that Ivan is a savior of sorts and that his death is a symbol of protest and a prophecy of deliverance.

Reality and spirituality together intrude upon and uplift the story in the end as the rollicking, youthful fantasy fades, unsustainable over time.  The police and army shoot real bullets too, killing Pedro's wife, and Rupert's mother, wounding  and crippling Ivan, despite his panache.  As Ivan languishes under his painful wound, he learns that his rebellion has won the ganja sellers a better deal, but worries that they will forget him, and of course they will.  Nevertheless, despite being in hiding and hurt, Ivan has had an unprecedented impact, shaking Babylon to its foundation.  As Hilton advises the detective: "No hit parade, no ganja, you better catch him fast."  The police intend to capture Ivan by starving the ganja sellers. Only the Rastafarian Pedro's loyalty delays the inevitable capitulation.   As one seller says, "It's business."   "Sitting in Limbo," the final track, excepting the reprise of both "You Can Get It" and the title song, underscores Ivan's tenuous grip: he "knows it won't be long," he's "like a bird without a song" (and a clipped wing too), and though "they're putting up resistance . . . I know that my faith will lead me on." 

Ivan insists on seeing Elsa and Rupert again before he escapes to Cuba to become "a revolutionary for Ras."  His three friends cavort in the sun and sea while Ivan handles his gun on the shore.  Pedro's formidable locks are the first powerful Rasta image in cinema, and as Henzell notes proudly, "It went worldwide." This is a playful and joyful, but tragic scene because Ivan is apart from the family circle, with trials still ahead, and stranded onshore as they sail and paddle by waving,: "I don't know where my life will lead me/ But I know where I've been/ I can't say what life will show me/ But I know what I've seen/ Tried my hand at love and friendship/ But all that is past and gone/ This little boy is moving on."  Ivan's success and charm do rest in part on this flaw; he is a little boy in his no holds barred pursuit of "my share now what's mine," and in his infatuation with media celebrity.  This is a measure of innocence and naivetˇ because in a sense he is attacking Babylon by adopting its materialism and its glitzy fakery.  His pain, his quiet reflection, his affection for Pedro, Elsa, and Rupert, the Rasta images, and the revolutionary for Ras theme all suggest he has grown. 

The final scene is one of cinematic, narrative, and thematic brilliance in which Ivan wins by losing. He misses by inches his rendezvous with the boat to Cuba, forced to swim with one arm.  This is not the Black Star Line and Cuba is not Zion, but there's certainly an echo of repatriation in the scheme. The Babylonian soldiers, at least a platoon armed with automatic weapons, take the beach where Ivan has washed up nearly drowned.  "You Can Get It" plays again now with Ivan in the trees and certain doom approaching; it can only be taken ironically, but Ivan behaves otherwise.  Taking to the open and out of bullets, he challenges the army to send one man out who can draw.  Still media driven, but playing the role now in deadly fashion, not swept up in it, he seeks a duel in the fine tradition of the American cowboy.  Meanwhile, the film cuts back and forth between Ivan's imminent slaughter, the spaghetti western he'd seen when he first came to Kingston, and the audience reaction to the spaghetti western, including a knowing comment that the hero can't die until the last reel. This of course is the last reel. The effect is to blur the lines between fact and fiction, cinema and reality, so that a bloody death passes into legend and a savior is born, not a spirit snuffed.  The effect is too reveal Babylon as a monster and Ivan as a saint.   The brutes blast him and he goes from swagger to insensibility in an absolute instant. The end is here, but then it isn't. Cut to a woman's butt swaying to the beat of Ivan's song, and we know, "the harder they fall one and all."  Cliff and Henzell have done it.





































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 Ivan arrived in Kingston with his dream of success through song   and Just as Ivan brooks no opposition and shows no mercy in a fight over his refurbished bike



"then there's the kind of filmmaker whocarries the camera to the action, and that is definitely my school of thought."


"I see religion as a device or a spell that is cast on peopleÉ do as I say not as I do"


Photo shoot during Shanty town