Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: Contemporary Film Directors
Title Page, Copyright, Frontispiece
Mike Leigh has been an ideal subject as both filmmaker and fellow— from his warm response to my first letter of inquiry to the many hours he donated to talk about cinema, art, and the world. I am deeply indebted to him for all his contributions to the welfare of this study. ...
The Nature of Contrivance
It is time to reclaim Mike Leigh from the kindly ghetto in which he has been placed by his well-meaning enthusiasts. I intend to reclaim him, over the course of this book, as a practicing theorist—a filmmaker deeply invested in cinema’s formal, conceptual, and narrative dimensions. Leigh is typically considered an unassuming crafter of little movies, ...
How to Watch a Mike Leigh Movie: The Short and Curlies
Let me outline the major narrative and stylistic elements central to Leigh, the practicing theorist. An ideal place to begin, in terms of narrative issues, is with a neglected aspect of his career, The Five-Minute Films. Leigh made these short stories, each five minutes long, for the BBC in 1975—that is, in the relative infancy of his cinematic development. ...
Biography and Career Outline
Mike Leigh was born in 1943 in Salford, a borough of Greater Manchester.5 He was the son and elder child of middle-class Jews who lived in a working-class area; his paternal grandfather, Mayer Liebermann, was a Russian immigrant who set up shop in England as a portrait miniaturist, framing and applying color to old family photographs. ...
Character and Plot: Meantime and Four days in July
Meantime (1983) and Four days in July (1985) are, more explicitly than many Mike Leigh films, “about” something. Meantime is “about” unemployment; Four days in July is “about” Northern Ireland. One might think that Secrets and Lies is “about” adoption, or that Vera Drake is “about” abortion. ...
Art and Narrative: Naked and Secrets and Lies
Two films changed the picture of Mike Leigh. These films received the imprimatur of artistic importance by each winning two major prizes at Cannes, transforming their director from a regional to a global name. Part of the picture-change, then, came from the fact that Naked (1993) and Secrets and Lies (1996) seemed to complete Leigh’s translation from a televisual to an art-house context. ...
Topsy-Turvy Girls, Career Boys: Career Girls and Topsy-Turvy
Late in the twentieth century, Mike Leigh made a film that doesn’t look or sound much like a Mike Leigh film. Its visual style displays none of the hallmarks I have been tracing—the unbroken shots, the side-by-sides, the visual centaurs. The film’s sound track is likewise surprising— a smooth jazz sheen with lounge-bar vocalizations, ...
Vera's Fingers: All or Nothing and Vera Drake
What is a human being? One could argue that this is the central question of Mike Leigh’s films. It is a question first articulated through his process, in the way in which the actors slowly accumulate the bits and pieces of their characters through research, improvisation, and collaboration. ...
Five Lessons, Four Seasons: Happy-Go-Lucky and Another Year
The protagonist of Happy-Go-Lucky is a woman who does not know how to drive. The protagonist of Another Year is also a woman who does not know how to drive. In the first instance, the protagonist is thirty-year-old Poppy (Sally Hawkins), an effusive, constantly delighted primary school teacher who decides to take lessons, in the wake of the theft of her bicycle. ...
Interview with Mike Leigh