All 20 entries tagged Contemporary British Directors
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September 06, 2008
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 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.
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
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 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. 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 in Secrets and Lies . She has worked with Mike Leigh in both TV and Films perhaps most famously in Leigh's Secrets & Lies
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 worked with Mike Leigh in Life is Sweet and Naked.
Sally Hawkins has worked with Mike Leigh in All or Nothing, Vera Drake and most recently Happy-Go-Lucky
Vera Drake 2004
All or Nothing 2002
Topsy Turvy 1999
Career Girls1998 (Requires access to JSTOR)
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 .
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
||Box Office Gross
||Debut Weekend Gross
|Secrets and Lies
|All or Nothing
|Life is Sweet
|*Still on release
||Gross until May 26 2008
Thin Man Films (Mike Leigh's Official Site)
BBC4 Interview with Mike Leigh interviewed by Isobel Hilton (There are several short downloadable audio interviews available here)
Mike Leigh could be only holder of awards at Venice, Berlin and Cannes. Guardian Feb 2008
Mike Leigh awarded a Doctorate by Essex University. (Full list of awards available here)
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,
Raphael, Amy.ed. 2008. Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh. London: Faber and Faber
March 18, 2008
Anthony Minghella (1954 - 2008)
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 .
||Title of film
|2008||The Ninth Life of Louis Drax|
|2006||Breaking and Entering|
|1999||The Talented Mr. Ripley
|1996||The English Patient|
|1990||Truly Madly Deeply|
Guardian Feature on Minghella and Talented Mr. Ripley
January 04, 2008
Kinoeye Reference Hub Page
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.
National Cinema Hub Pages
In depth individual explanations of terms
January 03, 2008
British Directors: Joe Wright (1972-)
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.
The Charles II TV Series is also available:
Filmography (Feature Films)
2005: Pride and Prejudice
January 02, 2008
British Directors: Edgar Wright (1974-)
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.
Romero eat your heart out - or maybe they will. Shaun of the Dead marked the return of the comedy-horror hybrid genre.
BBC film Network Wright interview. Includes extract of Hot Fuzz
Working Title Shaun of the Dead with trailer available
British Directors: Stephen Frears (1941-)
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.
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
Screenonline Biography.(Excellent range of other links to specific films here)
BBC Film Network page on The Queen. Clip and trailer available here.
Guardian interview of Frears 2004 (who reveals that he watches Big Brother)
British Directors: Mike Hodges (1932 - )
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.
1970 Get Carter
1974 Terminal Man
1979 Flash Gordon
1985 Morons from Outer Space
1987 A Prayer for the Dying
1990 Black Rainbow
2001 Murder By Numbers
2003 I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
2004 Murder by Numbers
BBC Radio 3 series of interviews with Mike Hodges about work in progress on I'll sleep When I'm Dead
Bullet Boy, 2005. Dir: Saul Dibb
Currently this film is being limited to a Webliography
Film Availability: There is a DVD available
Elizabeth the Golden Age, 2007 . Dir Shekhar Kapur
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.
Not currently available as a DVD in the UK. Still in cinemas.
January 01, 2008
British Directors: Paul Andrew Williams
Director Paul Andrew Williams
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.
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”
London to Brighton. Pimp Derek orders Kelly to get him a girl for a client
The Cottage 2008 '...an anarchic, gory horror-comedy'
BBC Film Network. Includes video extract.
A DVD is currently available