Saturday, June 20, 2009


before you make a living, i must make a living first...

france, the 1860s. etienne (renaud), a young migrant worker, arrives in a small coal mining town in northern france, hopeful of finding work. he befriends maheu (gerard depardieu), who takes him in to his home and manages to find him some work in the mine. etienne befriends maheu's daughter, catherine (judith henry), creating tension between the pair and her brutish lover, chaval (jean-roger milo). etienne also finds himself spending more time with souvarine (laurent terzieff), a russian socialist / anarchist, whose ideas he finds intriguing. and, when the conditions of the miners degenerate to such a degree, etienne finds himself amongst the leaders of a strike...

based on emile zola's epic story of the grim world of miners during the nineteenth century, this was, at the time, france's most expensive feature film ever. it is, a pretty grim watch, which features a few very nasty sequences; if it was an advert for not wanting to be a miner during this period, then it is a very effective one. the production, cast and claude berri's direction are all worthy of praise; for someone unfamiliar with the intricacies of the novel, it also seems to be a pretty good adaptation, although those who have read it say that it is not as effective, if you have.

grim, but good.

the dvd is £14.99, as part of 'the claude berri collection', from

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