Children are seldom seen in the cinema of Mike Leigh. This absence is doubtless due to the strictures of the director’s character- and story-building methods, which might make the participation of child actors in Leighland rather problematic. In fact, the only notable child protagonist in Leigh’s cinema is Charlie (Charlie Difford), Poppy’s student in Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), and even here the boy’s problems are merely used as a plot device to bring together the heroine and a social worker love interest. Though the issue is sometimes thematised in Leigh’s portraits of couples who are unable to conceive, the absence of children can seem a significant blind spot in films that clearly aspire to the presentation of full, detailed, realistically depicted social worlds.
Sweet isn’t the right word; in Mike Leigh’s 1990 film, life is unfair, frustrating and confusing by turns. Though, despite the darkness, Life Is Sweet exudes positivity and remains one of Leigh’s funniest, most quotable features.Many of the best lines are mumbled by Timothy Spall’s grotesque would-be restauranteur Aubrey, especially when he’s talking us through the menu for his Edith Piaf-themed restaurant. Anyone for prune quiche? Saveloy on a bed of lychees? Or liver in lager? Spall here is a brilliant physical comedian, whether he’s capsizing a caravan or tumbling off an expensive orthopaedic bed. And our final glimpse of him, semi-conscious on the restaurant floor clad in stripey-fronts, is difficult to forget [ . . . ]
Tom Jolliffe takes a look back at Mike Leigh’s 1993 film, Naked
The other day I attended a special screening at The Prince Charles Cinema in London.
It was part of a specially curated selection of films (from NFTS) devoted to the vile and unlikeable. The first film of the series was Mike Leigh’s 1993 masterpiece, Naked. Leigh was there himself to introduce the film. It was a passing gesture more than anything, as I always feel of the self-effacing Leigh, that blowing one’s own trumpet isn’t his bag.
Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero helped shape how Scotland sees itself. But director Bill Forsyth says that was the last thing he aimed to do There are plenty of Scottish actors and writers working in the movie business but strangely few directors. When you search for “Scottish film director”, top of the list is Bill Forsyth, who hasn’t made a film this century and is remembered primarily for two from the early 1980s – Gregory’s Girl (pictured below) and Local Hero. Such is the rarity of quality films made in Scotland by Scottish auteurs that these are still celebrated as ones that forged the character of the nation.“I wasn’t flying the flag for Scotland,” Forsyth says. “I wasn’t trying to say something culturally about Scotland – I don’t know what Scotland means to the guy next to me on the bus. It’s too dumb an idea to want to nail, a culture. It comes from making stuff, and the accumulation of that stuff finally reflects a culture.”