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

Happy 76th Birthday Mike Leigh

Life is Sweet (1990)

Interview Jane Horrocks, Alison Steadman and Mike Leigh “Life Is Sweet”
“Life Is Sweet” 1990

High Hopes (1988)

“High Hopes” 1988

Career Girls (1997)

“Career Girls” 1997

Another Year (2010)

“Another Year” 2010
Interview Mike Leigh and Lesley Manville

Happy Go Lucky (2008)

“Happy Go Lucky” 2008
Q&A New York with Sally Hawkins and Mike Leigh

Secrets and Lies (2008)

Mike Leigh Interview “Secrets and Lies”

Naked (1993)

“Naked” with the late Katrin Cartledge
Kermode commentary on “Naked”

Family Flavours in Mike Leigh’s ‘Life is Sweet’ 

Mike Leigh's Life Is Sweet
Mike Leigh’s Life Is Sweet

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.

Read Full Review at: Family Flavours in Mike Leigh’s ‘Life is Sweet’ | PopMatters