The Sunday Cult Film Corner (Brit Grit Season): Mike Leigh Special

29 Jul

Good Evening there my little minions.

Well the sluggish work rate of summer at the farm continues apace. although myself and many of my olleague at the paper have actually been rather busy, attending gigs, writing reviews and generally doing our best to enthral and piss people off with equal measure.

But at this moment my desk has been cleared, so i should return to some blogging duties. And as it’s sunday evening, that of course can mean only one thing. Yup it’s time for THE SUUUUUNDAY CULLLLLLLLLLLT FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILM COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORNAH-AH-AH-AH-AH (arrogah!)

Now you will be sad to hear that this weekend will see the much-lauded (in my head) Brit Grit season of British cult films draw to a close. Hey, don’t start crying there. It’s been a good run overall, and there will be plenty of hardened British films that i will be showing in the future. showing some time in the future.

But to round off the season, i’m giving the spotlight to an auteur director that has done more than any other to shed a light on the  social mores of modern British life and the ongoing struggles between everyday people. the person I’m talking about is of course MIKE LEIGH.

Leigh’s films are synonymous with a naturalistic style and plots where not all that much happens. The areas he does concentrate are the personal dynamic between the characters, which is achieves by starting his project with little or no script, just a bare premise of the story, which is them filled in with lengthy improvised session with the cast members.This approach enables depth and life to be brought to characters who would normally otherwise be considered drab and one-dimensional. Many of his films critical scenes (such as plot developments or new character introductions) are often entirely improvised. Often many of Leigh’s films highlight the everyday turmoil and struggle of Britain’s working and middle classes as they often try to juggle their problems and issues while keeping appearances amongst their friends and family. The end result is that his films are often grainy and down at heel in their depiction, but feel entirely real and organic. you can believe in the characters on the screen.

Tonight i show you two of his breakthrough films of the late ’80s. the First is HIGH HOPES, made in 1988. The film is an ensemble affair that highlights the state of being working class in a rapidly changing Britain as Tory social policies and market deregulation are in full swing. the story centres around a bike courier named Cyril (played by Phil Davies) and his girlfriend (played by Ruth Sheen). Although Cyril is a hardened socialist, the world around him is fast changing. His elderly, forgetful mother is a person who admires Margaret Thatcher, while her new neighbours are moneyed yuppies, who talk only of investments and share portfolios. Meanwhile his sister is a pretentious social climber while her husband regularly cheats on her. Add to this a surprise party for his mum’s 70th birthday and it’s a recipe for disaster.


The second of tonight’s films is his 1990 follow-up. LIFE IS SWEET. Starring regular Leigh alumni Alison Steadman and Jim Broadbent as Wendy and Andy, the head of a working class family in North London. the films tell of their attempts to better themselves over the course of one summer. Andy leaves his job as a head chef to open a fast food stall, while Wendy lends support to family friend Aubrey’s (played by Timothy Spall) attempts to open a restaurant. Meanwhile their daughters Natalie & Nicola (played by Claire Skinner and Jane Horrocks) have their own emotional issues to deal with.


Aaaaaaand that’s it for the Brit Grit season for now. It may come back. It may not. depends if i can be bothered. But i do promised that these two films are a wonderful way to spend the next few hours fo your evening.


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Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Film


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