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A bisexual petty criminal named Bob encounters a married couple arguing in a bar. Bob breaks up the fight and proceeds to seduce first the wife and then the husband. Then Bob teaches the ... See full summary »
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It's mid 19th century, north of France. The story of a coal miner's town. They are exploited by the mine's owner. One day the decide to go on strike, and then the authorities repress them Written by
Michel Rudoy <email@example.com>
Near the end of the film, when Etienne and Catherine are looking for the way out of the mine, we see the shadows of the lamps on the right wall of the tunnel. It's to be supposed that the only light inside the mine came from the lamps. See more »
Berri once again turns a book into a near masterpiece, as he did with "Jean de Florette" and "Manon of the Spring". This adaptation of Emile Zola's dark polemic novel abut the hard lives of French miners in 19th century France is both political and epic, with neither element drowning out the other.
Very strong performances abound. Miou-Miou is heartbreaking and, at times, frightening in her rage, as a mother and wife trying to help her family survive on the slave like wages paid buy the mine -- her anger growing ever harder to control as the mine literally consumers her family. Gerard Depardieu is also excellent as her husband, a big, likable fellow who is finally pushed too far by the bosses and working conditions. He joins with a more educated newcomer to the area, played by the also excellent Renaud, to help start a strike against their bosses, who plead poverty, and the inability to pay the workers more (indeed they want to cut wages), but who live in "Let them eat cake" splendor.
While the film may be heavy handed at times in its cross cutting between the lives of rich and the poor, it escapes the trap of making "the poor" just a lovable, or pitiable mob .These are well drawn individuals, with light and dark sides, (some with more of one than the other) and the violence of the mob is shown as ugly and brutal, if also understandable. Berri is not above acknowledging that it sometimes takes violence to force change, but even if that change may be for the good on the large scale, the violence also always leads to tragedy in the realm of individual human beings.
The film is beautifully shot and art directed, the grim hard life in the mines brought to startlingly real life, full of details and specifics that help, once again, the film transcend generalizations about being poor. These men and women take pride in their difficult, dirty and dangerous work, even as they have reached the end of their tether with their poverty.
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