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September 06, 2008

Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh (1943 - )

(For regular visitors this a relaunched page as my titling errors had made the original one invisible to search engines which were reading something else. There are a couple of additions on this page such as trailers from YouTube)


Mike Leigh 2

Mike Leigh



Introduction 


Mike Leigh is one of the UK's most important contemporary directors. Despite his record of success in making lower budget films his working methods preclude him from accessing the higher budgets required to  work on a larger canvas as he phrased it recently in a Sight and Sound interview. His first film, Bleak Moments was financed by Albert Finney who also came from Salford . Many of his films such as Meantime (1983) have been made with the backing of TV companies such as Channel Four and the BBC. They can commission work because they know that a Mike Leigh TV film premier will give the required audience however Leigh along with most other British directors lives in the shadow of the Hollywood film marketing and Multiplex exhibition system which is itself in thrall to the marketing power of Hollywood. Below I have included a brief bibliographical sketch of Mike Leigh and highlighted some of his working methods which come to charactersie his films. His films have an authorial content and approach which significantly distinguishes them from other British films.

Biographical Notes



Leigh was born in Salford in 1943 into a medical family - his father was a doctor, his mother a nurse. His grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. He first realised he wanted to make films while analysing the cinematic potential of his grandfather's funeral one snowy morning at the age of 12. In his teens he devised comic sketches whilst a member of the Jewish secular socialist-Zionist movement Habonim, In 1960 he left home for London and Rada (which he found "repressive and uncreative"). He followed this by studying at the Camberwell School of Art, and then enrolled at the London Film School. Leigh has since returned to be the Chairman of the Governors at the London Film School since 2000.


Whilst still a student Leigh began to write plays which were largely improvised. This activity eventually spawned Bleak Moments. (1971) and then Hard Labour in 1973 and Permissive Society 1975. Much of the next two decades was spent working mainly in TV. Leigh became recognised for writing powerful TV films such as Nuts in May (1976), and Abigail’s Party (1977). Meantime (1983) was a powerful film about a dysfunctional family and disaffected youth under the growing Thatcher regime at the time of the Falklands crisis which had a limited release in cinemas. It was five years before his next cinematic release High Hopes (1988). It was a film that combined realism with satire of a Swiftian nature. 1990 saw Life is Sweet the dark Naked (1993), Secrets and Lies (1996) which gained both British and American Academy ward nominations and won the Palme d’Or at Cannes). Career Girls (1997) is a form of chamber work. In 2002 the release of the biopic of Gilbert and Sullivan Topsy Turvey (2001) was a very different style to his previous work. 2004 saw the release of Vera Drake (2004) a realist representation of post-war Britain which highlighted the hypocrisy of the society in relation to the position of women of all classes. It became a prize-winner in Venice.  In the recent book Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh he cites as his inspirations the British social realists Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lindsay Anderson as well as American director John Cassavetes. He also says that directors and playwrights such as Renoir, Pinter and Beckett have influenced him.



Leigh’s Directing Methods

Mike Leigh 4

Critics often mystify Leigh’s working methods which are broadly improvisational but often carried out with known actors and crew. This is in essence an auteurial and dynamic approach which many directors from Godard to Loach to Fassbinder have used with variations. Of course it is the stuff of jazz performance: A haze of rumour and mystique has long surrounded Leigh's unique working methods”, which he has developed over five decades in theatre, television and film. It's generally realised, however, that the process involves intense improvisation, research and close collaboration with his actors.

Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh tends to demystify the Leigh methodology. Leigh has established clear codes of practice such as never letting actors discuss their characters in anything but the third person. Any talk about players getting too close to their parts is firmly discounted. "The whole thing about people becoming the characters doesn't happen, and is not on," Leigh told Jonathan Romney in interview. However any great artist creates a certain indefinable charisma around themselves which is in practice inseparable to their working methods it is what makes Leigh Leigh not a metteur en scene. Leigh points out that:” there's stuff that goes on that can only be understood by people taking part in it."

What emerges from the interviews is that each piece derives directly from, and only from, the collaborative work that produces it, work which begins with the casting. "I cast intuitively," Leigh tells Romney. "I get people and I don't know what I'm going to do with them."

Leigh’s working method like Ken Loach involves a ‘need-to-know’ basis. As a result actors know only what their characters do. Famously during the preparations for Vera Drake, the scene culminating in Vera's arrest emerged from a 10-hour improvising session. At the end of this scene the actors playing the Drake family were entirely surprised by the arrival of actors playing police who had come to arrest Vera.

Sheila Johnston on Leigh’s Methods from the Telegraph


  • Leigh meets each actor individually, and he or she talks about dozens of people he has known, intimately or fleetingly. Eventually, one is selected as the starting point for the character: it could just be a bloke glimpsed in the pub one night.


  • Over the next months, the actor, along with Leigh, builds up an elaborate alter ego, mapping out his life in enormous detail, down to how his parents met, and exploring every cranny of his psyche.


  • Once the individual characters are formed, Leigh gradually brings the actors together for a series of loose improvisations to build up their collective world. None of them knows anything about the film other than their own place in it


  • After a while, they go out on the streets to interact with other characters and the unsuspecting public, while Leigh looks on from a distance. The late Katrin Cartlidge, who appeared in Naked and Career Girls, once described him to me as "like David Attenborough and his gorillas".


  • Leigh writes an outline of scenes for the final film. The actors improvise specifically around these, while an assistant takes notes. The best lines and moments are distilled and scripted, and shooting can at last begin. This whole process takes about six months.


Actors Often USed by Mike Leigh

Alison Steadman

Alison Steadman 2

Alison Steadman played  the title role in Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party on both stage and screen.  She also appeared in Leigh's films  Life is Sweet and Secrets and Lies. She was married to Mike Leigh for 20 years.

Timothy Spall

Timothy Spall 1

Timothy Spall. In 1982 his acting relationship with Mike Leigh started in 1982 in Leigh’s TV movie Home Sweet Home. The collaboration has lasted over 20 years.


Brenda Blethyn

Brneda Blethyn Secrets and Lies


Brenda Blethyn in Secrets and Lies . She has worked with Mike Leigh in both TV and Films perhaps most famously in Leigh's Secrets & Lies


Jim Broadbent

Jim Broadbent

Jim Broadbent

Liz Smith

Liz Smith 1

Liz Smith made her screen debut in Mike Leigh's first feature film Bleak Moments. She was also in Leigh's TV play Hard Moments.

David Thewlis

David Thewlis in Naked


David Thewlis worked with Mike Leigh in Life is Sweet and Naked.

Sally Hawkins

Sally Hawkins

Sally Hawkins has worked with Mike Leigh in All or Nothing, Vera Drake and most recently Happy-Go-Lucky


Filmography

Happy-Go-Lucky 2008

Vera Drake 2004

All or Nothing 2002

Topsy Turvy 1999

Career Girls1998 (Requires access to JSTOR) 

Secrets and Lies1996

Naked 1993

Life is Sweet 1990

High Hopes1988

Meantime 1983 

Bleak Moments 1971


Trailers From Mike Leigh Films


Secrets & Lies 

Taken from YouTube this an extremely powerful extract of Mike Leigh getting the best out of his actors. Make sure you see this film .


Happy-Go-Lucky

See Entry on Happy-Go-Lucky



Thin Man Films Production company: Mike Leigh & Simon Channing Williams

Mike Leigh and Simon Channing Williams met in 1980. Simon was First Assistant Director on Mike’s BBC film Grown-Ups, starring Brenda Blethyn. They teamed up again when Simon co-produced The Short and Curlies (1987) and High Hopes (1988), both for Portman Productions.

By this time a good worlking relationship was established  a close personal and working relationship so they formed Thin Man Films. Since then Thin Man has made eight successful feature films, Life is Sweet (1990), Naked (1993), Secrets & Lies (1996), Career Girls (1997), Topsy-Turvy (1999), All Or Nothing (2002), Vera Drake (2004) and Happy-Go-Lucky (2008).


Awards to Mike Leigh Films

Secrets & Lies and Topsy-Turvy had nine Oscar nominations between them, Topsy-Turvy winning two.

1996  Secrets & Lies won the Palme d’Or and Best Actress at Cannes. It also won The Golden Lion and the Best Actress at Venice in 2004, as well as six BIFA’s, 3 BAFTA’s including Best Director, and three Oscar nominations

In 1994, Naked won Best Director and Best Actor at Cannes . 



Awards Won by Mike Leigh

  • Fiaf Awards 2005: Premio Fiaf – Mike Leigh
  • Gotham Awards 2004: Lifetime Achievement Award – Mike Leigh
  • Taormina International Film Festival 2002: Taormina Arte Award – Mike Leigh
  • London Critics Circle Film Awards 2000: Dilys Powell Award – Mike Leigh
  • Camerimage 1999: Special Award Best Duo: Director – Cinematographer Mike Leigh / Dick Pope
  • BAFTA 1996: Michael Balcon Award – Mike Leigh
  • Empire Awards 1996: Lifetime Achievement Award – Mike Leigh



The Box Office Gross Takings of Mike Leigh Films to Date. Figures from  Sight & Sound July 2008
Title
Year
Box Office Gross
Opening Screens
Debut Weekend Gross
Vera  Drake 2005
£2,377,598
65
£266,000
Secrets and Lies
1996
£1,969,910


Happy-Go-Lucky
2008
£1,453,681*
77
£385,000
Topsy-Turvey
2000
£1,177,542


All or Nothing
2002
£712,165
55
£164,000
Life is Sweet
1991
£530,000


Career Girls
1997
£492,772


Naked
1993
£456,280


High Hopes
1989
£245,549


*Still on release

Gross until May 26 2008





Webliography 

Thin Man Films (Mike Leigh's Official Site)

Screenonline biographical notes on Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh interview with Salon

BBC4 Interview with Mike Leigh interviewed by Isobel Hilton (There are several short downloadable audio interviews available here) 

Mike Leigh at the NFT

Leigh hits out at UK film industry

Mike Leigh live on Film Unlimited

BBC interview with Leigh on All or Nothing

Guardian interview with Mike Leigh on winning the Palme d'or with Secrets and Lies (1996)

Mike Leigh could be only holder of awards at Venice, Berlin and Cannes. Guardian  Feb 2008

New Statesman on Leigh's Happy-go-Lucky

Guardian Review of Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh: Britain's Bergman

Mike Leigh on Humphrey Jennings

Telegraph on Mike  Leigh's Happy-go-Lucky

Independent: How Meeting Mike Leigh Raised Sally Hawkins' Game

Euroscreenwriters Interview with Mike Leigh

Screenonline: Mike Leigh on TV

Screening the Past : Review of The Films of Mike Leigh: embracing the World

Mike Leigh awarded a Doctorate by Essex University. (Full list of awards available here)

Johnathan Romney Independent 2008: Leigh Interview


Bibliography 

Clements, Paul. 1983. The Improvised Play. London: Methuen

Coveney, Michael.1996. The World According to Mike Leigh. London: HarperCollins

Movshovitz, Howie (ed.)2000.  Mike Leigh Interviews. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi,

Quant & Carney. 2000. The Films of Mike Leigh. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

Raphael, Amy.ed. 2008. Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh. London: Faber and Faber

Watson Gary: The Cinema of Mike Leigh: A Sense of the Real








RETURN TO BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 


March 18, 2008

Anthony Minghella (1954–2008)

Anthony Minghella (1954 - 2008)

Return to Directors for Contemporary British Cinema

Anthony Minghella 2

Under construction

Introduction

Anthony Minghella died today aged 54 from a haemorrhage a few days after having surgery for cancer of the tonsils and neck.  Minghella directed several important films including Truly Madly Deeply, The English Patient (9 Oscars) and Cold Mountain (One Oscar). As well as directing films he was also a screenwriter, playright and producer as well as recently becoming an opera director. Minghella also contributed to British film culture at an institutional level having been Chairman of the Board of Governors of the British Film Institute (BFI) between 2003-2007 and a member of the UK film Council from 2003-2006

Anthony Minghella

Filmography


Year
Title of film
2008 The Ninth Life of Louis Drax
2006 Breaking and Entering
2003 Cold Mountain
2000 Play
1999 The Talented Mr. Ripley
1996 The English Patient
1993 Mr. Wonderful
1990 Truly Madly Deeply


Webliography

Screenonline Biography of Anthony Minghella

BBC news of Anthony Minghella's death  

BBC Obituary of Anthony Minghella

BBC Minghella Audio Interviews available

BBC Southampton Interview with Minghella

Independent Interview with Anthony Minghella  

Guardian Minghella interview on Cold Mountain

New Statesman articel by Minghella on Beckett's Play

Guardian Feature on Minghella and Talented Mr. Ripley  

Anthony Minghella introduces NFT interview with Sir Richard Attenborough  

Bibliography 


January 04, 2008

Kinoeye Reference Hub

Kinoeye Reference Hub Page

Introduction


As the Kinoeye film and media blog develops a range of reference pages are being made available. You may wish to bookmark this page to be able to quickly refer to what is currently available at any time.  


Reference pages will include: bibliographies glossaries, chronologies, convenient list of directors, actors etc.  



Reference Pages 

Bibliographies

British Cinema Bibliography

French Cinema Bibliography 

Italian Cinema Bibliography and Webliography

Repetition or Revelation: Film Genre and Society. 2003 (Bibliography)

Weimar and Nazi  Cinema Bibliography


Chronologies 

A Chronology of Important European Films  1918 - 2003


Directors

Directors in Contemporary British Cinema

Directors in Italian Cinema

Weimar Directors Hub Page  


National Cinema Hub Pages

British Cinema


European Film Institutions


Glossaries

Glossary of Documentary Film Terms

European Cinema and Media Glossary A-E

European Cinema and Media Glossary  Ed-Mo

Media and Film Studies Glossary N-Z

Glossary of New Media Technologies (A-N)

Glossary of New Media Technologies (O-Z)


In depth individual explanations of terms 


Globalisation  




January 03, 2008

Joe Wright

British Directors: Joe Wright (1972-)

Joe Wright

VISIT THE BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE

Introduction

Joe Wright in a short career has proved to be highly successful director of heritage style costume dramas based upon literary adaptations. Atonement (2007) opened the 64th Venice Film Festival making Wright the youngest director ever to have had a film opening this festival.  

Wright was trained at St. Martins art school in London now Central St. Martins University of the Arts London.  He has been identified as dyslexic and left school with no qualifications. His dyslexia was comensated for by an excellent ability within the field of visual communications and the strength of his painting and film making skills exceptionally won him a place in the prestigious St Martins to study fine art and film He won recognition making a short film for the BBC and directed the highly successful historical drama series Charles II: The Power and The Passion for the BBC which won the 2004 BAFTA TV award, Best Drama Serial. This helped him to get film contracts for the historical / heritage / costume drama genre films Atonement and Pride and Prejudice.

Film Availability:

Pride and Pedjudice DVD cover

The Charles II TV Series is also available:

Charles II The Power and The Passion DVD cover

Filmography (Feature Films)

2007: Atonement

2005: Pride and Prejudice

Webliography 

Guardian interview with Joe Wright on Pride and Predjudice

Guardian video interview Joe Wright on Atonement

Independent article on Wright and Atonement summer 2007

VISIT THE BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 


January 02, 2008

Edgar Wright

British Directors: Edgar Wright (1974-)

VISIT THE BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE

Hot Fuzz 4


Introduction

Edgar Wright did a lot of his early work in TV as so many up coming film directors have done in the past.  spaced was a successful sitcom which went into two series runnig between 1999 - 2001 and significantly helped Wright to establish a reputation. His first work after studying film at Bournemouth was low budget comedy and he has worked in the comedy idiom ever since. Wright has done a lot of work with Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson and the success of Spaced allowed them to launch Shaun of the Dead a comedy-horror. The success of this film with a moderate budget allowed them to make Hot Fuzz. Wright also spent some time working with more established comedy acts in the BBC namely Alexei Sayle and Dawn French. 




Shaun of the Dead 1

Romero eat your heart out - or maybe they will. Shaun of the Dead marked the return of the comedy-horror hybrid genre. 





Webliography 

BBC film Network Wright interview. Includes extract of Hot Fuzz

Screenonline Biography of Edgar Wright

Screenonline Spaced analysis

BFI full list of Film and TV Credits for Edgar Wright  

BBC Q & A page with Wright and Pegg

Guardian NFT interview with Pegg and Wright  

BBC Review of Shaun of the Dead

Working Title Shaun of the Dead with trailer available 


RETURN TO BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 



Stephen Frears

British Directors: Stephen Frears (1941-)

VISIT THE BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 


Introduction

Stephen Frears has had a fine film making career making many notable British films some of which have had a controversial edge live My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammie and Rosie Get Laid. With these films and with Dirty Pretty Things Frears has shown he can make films with his finger on the pulse of social change.  His most successful recent film was The Queen which won many accolades. A fuller evaluation will appear in due course however there are a good range of web links established to aid research. 


Filmography

2006: The Queen

2005: Mrs Henderson Presents

2002: Dirty Pretty Things

2000: High Fidelity; Liam

1998: The Hi-Lo Country

1996 The Van

1995: Mary Reilly

1993: The Snapper

1992: Accidental Hero

1990: The Grifters

1989: Dangerous Liaisons

1987: Prick Up Your Ears

1987: Sammy and Rosie Get Laid

1985: My Beautiful Laundrette

1984: The Hit

1979: Bloody Kids

1971: Gumshoe


Film availability 

dirty_pretty_things_dvd_cover.jpg    the_queen_dvd_cover.jpg Mrs Henderson Presents DVD cover Liam DVD Cover



Webliography 

Screenonline Biography.(Excellent range of other links to specific films here) 

Guardian Interview Stephen Frears

BBC Interview on Dirty Pretty Things

Daily Telegraph. Film Makers on film: Stephen Frears

BBC Film Network  page on The Queen. Clip and trailer available here. 

BFI Governors page on Frears 

Guardian on Frears as Chairperson of the Cannes Jury 2007 

David Thompson in the Independent 2nd Jan 2008 on Stephen Frears

Britfim Frears heads Cannes Jury

Guardian interview of Frears 2004 (who reveals that he watches Big Brother) 

Skillset Frears takes part in mentoring scheme


RETURN TO BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 





British Directors: Mike Hodges

British Directors: Mike Hodges (1932 -  )

( BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE) 

Introduction

Mike Hodges is still known for his 'gangster heavy' film Get Carter which seems to get number one in the 'Lad's Mags' lists for the 'well 'ard'. In fact it was an insightful view of relationships between British Gangland and various local businesses and of course the police. In terms of representations of Newcastle and the North East at the time the corruption of the Poulson affair.

The film was a continuation of the representation of British Gangland from Brighton Rock through The Long Good Friday which also dealt with corruption and was prescient about developments in the London docklands. Hodges has contributed another gangster heavy film in recent years I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

For more on the theme of British Crime Films please follow this link.  

A fuller evaluation of Mike Hodges work will follow however there are some useful links here to help with your research.  

Fimography

1970 Get Carter
1972 Pulp
1974 Terminal Man
1979 Flash Gordon
1985 Morons from Outer Space
1987 A Prayer for the Dying
1990 Black Rainbow
1998 Croupier
2001 Murder By Numbers
2003 I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
2004 Murder by Numbers

Films Available:

Get Carter DVD Cover Croupier DVD Cover I

Webliography 

Screenonline Biography of Mike Hodges 

Guardian interview with Mike Hodges

NFT Interview with Mike Hodges

Sight and Sound Review of I'll Sleep when I'm Dead

BBC Radio 3 series of interviews with Mike Hodges about work in progress on I'll sleep When I'm Dead

BBC Interview with Mike Hodges on Croupier

Culture Wars Review of I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

RETURN TO BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 


Bullet Boy, 2005. Dir: Saul Dibb

Bullet Boy, 2005. Dir: Saul Dibb


Introduction

Currently this film is being limited to a Webliography   

Film Availability: There is a DVD available

Bullet Boy DVD Cover

Webliography 

BBC Movie Review

BritFilm Production Details 

Screenonline Bullet Boy 

Screenonline Black British Film  

Screenonline Adolescence on Film

British Board of film Censorship Discussion of Bullet Boy

Screenonline Bullet Boy a Case Study of Distribution

RETURN TO BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 


Elizabeth the Golden Age, 2007 . Dir Shekhar Kapur

Elizabeth the Golden Age, 2007 . Dir Shekhar Kapur

Elizabeth the Golden Age 1



Introduction

I was very impressed with Kapur's first rendering of the early part of Elizabeth's life and it will be interesting to see how this history film stands up to its predecessor. It is improtant to differentiate the genre of history film from that of costume drama as a genre. The latter are usually stories set in a specific historical period but which often have no historical grounding in the facts. By comparison the history film is about specific people and events which are accepted as facts although interpretations of these facts will of course differ.  It is also important to note the creation by critics of the notion of the 'heritage film' which suggested that countries undergoing some sort of crisis perhaps of identity often recourse to a golden past which is something of a mythical one (See also Heritage Cinema in France). There is an abundance of films about the Tudor period and Elizabeth 1st whilst there is a paucity of films about large tracts of other parts of British history. There will be a comparison of this film with the earlier versio of Elizabeth in due course. 

Shekhar Kapur's previous version was very succesful in financial terms by the standards of British films. Kepur was a controversial choice the last time after his film Bandit Queen was banned in India. It was a fine film and Film Four backed the original project. I'm looking forward to seeing this one in any case.

Elizabeth the Golden Age 2

Film availability: 

Not currently available as a DVD in the UK. Still in cinemas.  

Webliography

Historian Alison Weir on Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Radio One interviews with Shekhar Kapur and others.

Guardian Blog for Elizabeth the Golden Age. A nice quality viewing extract available here.

Guardian Review of Elizabeth the Golden Age

Long live the queen. Guardian feature on clothing design and the representations of queens in film

Observer  review of Elizabeth the Golden Age

Official marketing site for Elizabeth the Golden Age

Working Title: Producers of Elizabeth the Golden Age

Kinoeye History of Working Title

About.com interview with Kapur 

Wikipedia on Elizabeth the Golden Age



RETURN TO BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 



January 01, 2008

British Directors: Paul Andrew Williams

British Directors: Paul Andrew Williams

Go to London to Brighton (2006)

paul_andrew_williams.jpg

Director Paul Andrew Williams

Brief Overview

Paul Andrew Williams  has proved to be a highly successful new British director. His first feature film London to Brighton was very successful for a low budget film. This has helped to attract more support from the purseholders. 

Williams' next film is going to be The Cottage. It is a thriller which includes in its acting line-up Andy Serkis who was in Lord of the Rings. The UK Film Council's Premiere Fund has provided £770,000 of backing. Isle of Man Film, Screen Yorkshire and Pathe have also provided support. 

Awards 

London to Brighton won the Skillset New Director’s Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The film has also won the Jury Prizes at Dinard and Raindance, and earned three nominations at the British Independent Film Awards.

London to Brighton named by The Guardian as “best British film of the year”

Filmography 

london to Brighton Kitchen

London to Brighton. Pimp Derek orders Kelly to get him a girl for a client 

London to Brighton (2006)

The cottage 1

The Cottage 2008 '...an anarchic, gory horror-comedy'

The Cottage (2008)

Webliography 

Sight and Sound London to Brighton Review

BBC  Film Network. Includes video extract.

Shooting People Blog: Interview with Paul Williams

Kingston University: Paul Williams becomes a visiting professor

Guardian Interview with Williams on bad critical reception of The Cottage

Guardian Review of The Cottage

Film Availability: 

A DVD is currently available 

London to Brighton DVD Cover

RETURN TO BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 


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