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BLUE COLLAR (1978) neo-noir on Retroplex 10/30


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One of the most astonishing examples of late 1970s neo-noir is the film BLUE COLLAR, written and directed by Paul Schrader. This incendiary 1978 urban populist drama airs next Tuesday, October 30 on Retroplex.

 

As fans of modern films know, Schrader wrote the screenplays for Sidney Pollack's THE YAKUZA (74), Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER (76) and Brian DePalma's OBSESSION (76) before turning to directing; BLUE COLLAR was his directorial debut. Schrader earned further screenwriting kudos for his contributions to two other Scorsese films: RAGING BULL (80) and THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (88). Subsequent films directed by Schrader include HARDCORE (79), AMERICAN GIGOLO (80), CAT PEOPLE (82), MISHIMA (85), PATTY HEARST (88), LIGHT SLEEPER (92), AFFLICTION (97) and AUTO FOCUS (02).

 

BLUE COLLAR concerns itself with three Detroit auto workers; Zeke (Richard Pryor), Jerry (Harvey Keitel) and Smokey (Yaphet Kotto). Each of them have their own crushing financial concerns (Zeke and Jerry are family men with mounting bills and no relief in sight; Smokey is a party animal with a lust for cocaine and women) which bond them in a tight knot of friendship. To complicate matters, they belong to a corrupt, ineffectual union that cares nothing for the well being of its members. In a collective moment of desperation, fueled by a night of coke-induced debauchery, they decide to rip off the union office. The following night they break in and make off with the safe. For their efforts get an envelope with few hundred dollars of petty cash---and a notebook with the names of high ranking union officials, detailing the nefarious activities they've been engaged in. What starts out as a bumbling and botched robbery attempt turns into a dangerous nightmare of paranoia and pursuit as the cops, the FBI and murderous union goons all converge on the mean streets of Detroit.

 

This is an exceptionally dark film--as noir as any 40s or 50s potboiler, laced with heavy doses of sardonic and scatalogical humor and unexpected moments of harsh violence. Its message is bleak and uncompromising and its vision of the American working man as an exploited pawn at the mercy of a deliberately corrupt society is as gutsy as it gets. The three leads are phenomenal: Pryor is alternately hilarious and poignant as an angry and frustrated man at the end of his rope; Keitel appropriately intense in that way he was before he became too well known and Yaphet Kotto an absolute marvel as the soulful center of this tragic trio.

 

I love this film with a passion and perhaps many of you will, too. For those who are disdainful of rampant profanity, the advice here would be to avoid the film. Those who are not put off by this will find BLUE COLLAR to be an enormously entertaining and challenging film.

 

Retroplex; Tuesday, October 30; 8:00 pm e/p

 

Dewey1960

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This is playing on Retroplex all October, but for some reason I've been avoiding it, even though I really like Richard Pryor.

 

But I will definitely check it out once and for all on the 30th, Dewey.

 

Message was edited by: Bronxgirl48

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