Blue Collar is one of the best studies of the essential flaw of the revolutionary character in the context of the oppressed. The revolutionary is played by Richard Pryor—who gives his best performance as an actor—and the flaw is precisely his passion, his fire, his sense of moral superiority. The other two workers in the Paul Schrader film, played by Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto, are not as fiery as Pryor, and so are not selected for the role that precisely corrupts the revolutionary: leadership.

This film, which is set in a Carter-era Detroit car plant, concerns three workers who are going through hardships and trying to stay above water and out of jail. One of them, Keitel, simply wants to become middle-class, to have his bills settled and his family comfortable. Kotto, on the other hand, is a man with a lot of love and a big imagination. He does not care for middle-class values; he wants to work, do drugs, fuck, and float through life as if it were a dream. These two do not have the materials for leadership in the car plant's union. But the loud and self-righteous Pryor does. Why? Because he has the simple desires and values of Keitel and the imagination and fearlessness of Kotto. The union sees this potential and makes him a leader. But the power, of course, corrupts him. The real revolutionary turns out to be Kotto, the one who cannot be co-opted because he actually loves life. Few Hollywood films contain an insight that is that profound. Seattle Art Museum, Fri Feb 12 at 7:30 pm.recommended