Bill Antoniou takes a look at the films of British master filmmaker Mike Leigh

Whenever people tell me that Mike Leigh is one of their favourite filmmakers, I’m always surprised to hear it.  Even though he’s also one of mine, I forget to think of him as an actual filmmaker.

His brilliant work is derived from his achievements in theatre and it bears those origins on screen, though I don’t mean that as criticism. He returns to some character archetypes frequently (the soulful homeless man, the hopelessly chirpy working-class woman) and the conflicts he puts his characters through feel like the stuff of stage drama. He makes them relevant in cinema from the beginning, then as he goes along, directing more films and making his multi-levelled narratives feel more cinematic. (Meantime just feels like watching people, while Another Year plays almost like a thriller.)

A common mistake people make about Leigh’s work is saying that it is improvised. It’s absolutely not, but is rather a script created from work that he does with his actors, creating characters from birth to death and putting them in situations together in which their improvised interactions eventually result in a finished work. In the eighties, he revolutionized the kitchen-sink melodrama. These films were celebrated for nailing the anxieties of the less fortunate under Thatcher’s conservative reign. In the nineties, he applied his observations of simple lives in the less glamorous parts of London to high concept dramas (and in the case of his Palme d’Or-winning Secrets & Lies, created his masterpiece). Continue reading

The Criterion Collection -Nicolas Roeg’s Top 10

“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.” [ . . . ]

Continue at: The Criterion Collection – The Current –