Mike Leigh’s films have always been first and foremost about people. He makes incredibly rich and detailed character studies, famously conducting his actors through months of improv work before he even sits down to write a screenplay. Somehow, that’s been the case even when he’s occasionally tackled famous historical subjects, like 19th-century Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner. Topsy-Turvy recounts the creation of The Mikado, but everybody on screen, from Gilbert and Sullivan themselves down to the smallest member of the ensemble, registers just as vividly as do the wholly invented characters in Naked or Secrets & Lies.
That’s what makes Leigh’s latest effort such an anomaly. Peterloo doesn’t deliberately skimp on character, but it’s the first of his movies in which no inividual makes much of an impression, and each one is fundamentally subordinate to the larger event being painstakingly chronicled. “Peterloo” is the nickname given to a massacre of unarmed civilians by cavalry soldiers that occurred on August 16, 1819, at St. Peter’s Field in Manchester. (Just as we now strip the “Water” from Watergate for every similar scandal, they stripped the “Water” from Waterloo, suggesting an equivalent to Napoleon’s then-recent bloody defeat.) Eigtheen people were killed in the melee, with hundreds more injured; the movie builds to the horror, eventually showing just what happens when men on horseback charge into a crowd with their swords drawn and start indiscriminately slashing at people who are just trying to get out of the way.
To his credit, Leigh is less interested in the massacre itself than he is in the series of political machinations that inexorably led to it. His challenge: That’s an incredibly dry subject—England’s equivalent of Ben Stein droning on to Ferris Bueller’s classmates about the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. Here, the proximate cause of all the trouble is tariffs imposed on imported grain, known as the Corn Laws; widespread dissatisfaction with these laws, which benefited wealthy landowners at the expense of everyone else, resulted in demands for parliamentary reform.
Peterloo makes an effort to demonstrate how this affected a typical Manchester family, opening with one weary soldier (David Moorst) returning home from Waterloo and subsequently becoming semi-radicalized as a result of the deprivation. Mostly, though, the film consists of public meetings at which organizers bellow things like “The object of Parliament ought to be the general good, the equal protection, the security of the person and property of each individual, and therefore labor—the poor man’s only property—ought to be as sacred as any other property!” That sort of rhetoric almost always gets exhausting in a hurry (even MAGA-heads who wait in line all day to see Trump free-associate often leave early), and it represents a sizable chunk of this lengthy film’s first hour [ . . . ]
After being embodied twice (by Alain Delon in “Plein Soleil” in 1960 and by Matt Damon in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” in 1999), the sociopathic character dreamed up by novelist Patricia Highsmith is about to make his comeback in a television series.
In 1955, the novelist Patricia Highsmith published the first of five books about Mr. Ripley, adapted no less than twice on the silver screen. The first of these was Plein Soleil in 1955 then, forty years later came The Talented Mr. Ripley, directed by Anthony Minghella, starring Matt Damon and Jude Law in the lead roles in 1999. The plot? In New York of the 1950s, Tom Ripley, a penniless but ambitious young man, lives off scams until the rich Herbert Greenleafasks him to go to Sicily to find his son, Dickie, and bring him back to his obligations. Once in Italy, Tom dives into a luxury lifestyle and develops an extreme (and slightly manic) admiration for Dickie, which will lead him to the murder of the rich playboy. Today, this cult novel is about to get a new life as a series. According to Deadline, the latter will draw directly on the five novels written by Patricia Highsmith, namely The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley’s Game, The Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley Under Water. The award-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian who received an Oscar for Best Screenplay for Schindler’s List in 1994, will adapt the novel. Watch this space… [ . . . ]
“Oh! What have you done to me? What an impossible task. To pick ten titles from the Criterion Collection is difficult enough, but to put them in any kind of order would defeat Ockham’s sharpest razor,” exclaimed Nicolas Roeg, director of The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing, and Walkabout, all available from the Criterion Collection.
Roeg: “It’s a wonderful list that I have gone over again and again and everytime I’ve tried to make a selection, I’ve ended up with fifteen or twenty different choices—usually dictated by my mood of the day. Don’t do this to me. Please stop. I love them all. But only with a pin and blindfold can I land on ten. Now, looking at them, I find I could champion each one equally, but then of course I could do the same for all the rest the pin didn’t pick. My advice would be to work your way through the whole collection and look forward to new ones being added.” [ . . . ]
Bill Forsyth, right, on the set of Local Hero in 1983 with Denis Lawson and Peter Riegert
The screenwriter Bill Forsyth is turning his film Local Hero into a musical, 35 years after its release.
The movie about an American oil tycoon’s attempt to buy a remote Scottish village starred Jenny Seagrove and Peter Capaldi. It is being adapted for the stage by Forsyth and David Greig, artistic director of the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. Marc Knopfler, founder of the band Dire Straits, will produce the music [ . . . ]
Continue at THE TIMES: Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero film adapted for stage musical | Scotland | The Times
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.