The quiet desperate life of a secretary and her retarded sister depicted in a halting sequence of improvised fragments. The uncompromising cinematic debut of British director Mike Leigh
“Might be too bleak a look at reality for some but it nevertheless is an uncompromising way of brilliantly telling its harrowing story.” Continue reading
Mr. Turner explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Profoundly affected by the death of his father, loved by a housekeeper he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, where he dies. Throughout this, he travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty. Continue reading
Unlike Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky probably won’t pick up many awards. It’s not a film with a ‘big statement’ and it signals a return to Leigh’s low-key films in the Nineties, such as Life Is Sweet and, in particular, Career Girls. But whereas those two films were only intermittingly successful, Happy-Go-Lucky’s vivid, absorbing and truthful portrayal of thirtysomething London life shows how far Leigh has developed his craft over the past decade.
There’s also a sense that Leigh’s brand of compassionate realism has become more engaging as cinema and drama becomes overly negative about the human condition. A refusal to rise above the banal and mundane was always Leigh’s glaring weakness as a film maker. But when ordinary people’s everyday life and behaviour has become politicised and problematised, Leigh’s ringing endorsement of free individuals enjoying the good life in twenty-first century Britain has never been more welcome. Continue reading
Mike Leigh’s brilliant and controversial Naked stars David Thewlis as Johnny, a charming, eloquent, and relentlessly vicious drifter on the lam in London. Rejecting all those who would care for him, the volcanic Johnny hurls himself into a nocturnal odyssey through the city, colliding with a succession of the desperate and the dispossessed, and scorching everyone in his path. With a virtuoso script and raw performances from Thewlis and costars Katrin Cartlidge and Lesley Sharpe, Leigh’s panorama of England’s crumbling underbelly is a showcase of black comedy and doomsday prophecy, and was the winner of the best director and actor prizes at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. Continue reading
Mike Leigh’s first film after his international success Secrets and Lies was this comedy-drama about two former college roommates spending a weekend together — the first time they’ve seen each other in six years. As teenagers, Annie (Lynda Steadman) was painfully shy, terribly nervous (so much so that it manifested itself in a severe facial rash) and in desperate need of self-esteem. Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge), on the other hand, had strong opinions about everything and a habit of blurting them out regardless of the hurt they would inflict upon others. Years later, Annie has gained a certain confidence and poise (and her face has cleared up), but she’s yet to learn how to relax, while Hannah is still incapable of letting a quiet moment speak for itself. As they spend the weekend hunting for apartments (Annie’s looking for a new place to live), they’re constantly reminded of their past together — how far they’ve come, and how far they still have to go. Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who won acclaim for her role as the daughter given up for adoption in Secrets and Lies, co-wrote the musical score for this film. Continue reading