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Indy Lifestyle Online
It's easy to spot the working-classes in Claude Berri's Germinal: no pastels. No primary colours either - the proles wear the black and brown shades, serious cinema decrees fitting for their station, even while harping on about their cruel exploitation at capitalism's manicured hands. They might be ennobled by honest labour but the poor fatally lack chic: peasant housewife Miou Miou sports the same lifeless hairstyle Sally Field did in Norma Rae - it didn't do a thing for her either. Except to signal that she was too busy surviving life at the bottom to be bothered with such fripperies as follicle maintenance: why take two bottles into the shower when you can take none?

Film-makers as diverse as Berri, John Sayles (Matewan) and Martin Ritt (Norma Rae) are enraged by injustice on the shop floor. Getting hot under the blue collar is what gives their work a welcome charge. But the people in their movies often seem smaller than life, as if to make their situation somehow more deserving of our attention. Germinal doesn't even allow Gerard Depardieu to use his heroic bulk heroically: his deliberately being less than Depardieu is meant (bizarrely) to make him more 'real'. Yet if you look at a documentary like Barbara Kopple's Harlan County, USA the last thing the striking miners and their wives lack is life force and performance skills. The men don't just stand up for their rights, they strut for them too - and their women, even on the picket line, take pride in their appearance. In fact, you've never seen such shiny, beautiful, bouffant hair. . . well, not on Sally Field.

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