Our September theme of the month, Back to School, continues with our film of the month, Cooley High (1975).
PAUSE IT: What do you see? Four stills from director Michael Schultz’s seminal coming of age flick, Cooley High. Shot on location in and around Chicago’s Near North Side, the film showcases much of 60s and 70s era Chicago including Lincoln Park Zoo, Kinzie St. Bridge, and Providence-St. Mel School. Cooley High is a great example of how a film’s choice of location can alter the feel and production value of a story. While many Hollywood films of yesteryear chose to make use of lavish, beautifully designed sets and sound stages, Cooley High is a film that gets tremendous mileage out of the choice to film on the streets of Chicago. Wanting to depict African-American life and his hometown as they really were and not how they were so often stereotypically shown by mainstream Hollywood, screenwriter Eric Monte set out to write a semi-autobiographical tale about a group of black youths growing up in the midst of 1960s America. Friends Leroy “Preach” Jackson (Glynn Turman) and Richard “Cochise” Morris (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) socialize with girls, joy ride, party, and play hooky. Not intended to sensationalize or exploit its subjects, Monte’s goal was really to show a slice-of-life drama pitched in the same tone and tenor of a film like Fellini’s I Vitelloni (1953) or George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973). With laughter and tears, the film does just that, at times capturing all the grit and pathos of an Italian Neorealist film. As a Chicago-based company, Olive Films sees Cooley High not only as a fantastic film, but also as something of a historical document detailing the past of our great city. Indeed, the many real locations used in the movie do their part to lend the story a certain street-level authenticity and nostalgic feel for those days of youth. Our theme of the month being Back To School, take the time to give Cooley High a chance and see if you agree.
Cooley High (1975)
Director: Michael Schultz
Cast: Glynn Turman, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Garrett Morris
Cinematography by: Paul Vombrack
Available from Olive Films on DVD and Blu-ray.
September 14, 2017