Blue Collar (1978) dir. Paul Schrader

9/7 @HFA


Before Labor Day became a US contact sport whereby day-off gaggles score all the cutthroat deals, there were the 1970s. Paul Schrader’s high-strung debut crime drama Blue Collar popped up in 1978, and it’s hard to imagine this grit-and-jive maelstrom of a movie emerging at a time other than its own; happily, it’s not required.

Inspired by the decade’s precarity, Schrader (who wrote the screenplay of Taxi Driver three years prior to Blue Collar’s release) nullifies political correctness in favor of a raw, unflinching portrait of three disenfranchised auto workers at wit’s end (and beginning) in this factory-floor caper. A timely populist critique of the strife endemic to the American underclass of capitalism’s malfruition, Blue Collar is set in a Rust Belt Detroit, where the confluence of deregulation, the Cold War, the continuing deferment of the then-fifty-five-year-old ERA, and the failing practices of private-sector unions stocked the decade’s powder keg, bearing with it the attendant mood of a berserk, well-cracked hilarity that the film so adroitly conveys.

Rumor has it that Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, and Yaphet Kotto all came to hate each other’s guts during its making. Pryor allegedly flipped and pointed a gun at Schrader insisting that he cap all scene takes to a maximum of three, after which followed Schrader’s reported meltdown and the thorough reconsideration of his career in filmmaking. Years later, Pryor asked Schrader to direct the adaptation of his biography, like, no big deal. It was the 70s, everyone was mad AF.

Part of the Furious and Furiouser series screening at the HFA this month.

Blue Collar (1978) dir. Paul Schrader
114 min. 
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