Life is sweat


The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - MD

On sale from next Mon­day to co­in­cide with the im­mi­nent cin­ema re­lease of Mike Leigh’s latest movie, Happy-Go-Lucky, this 11-disc box set fea­tures all 10 of Leigh’s ear­lier fea­tures, be­gin­ning with his aptly ti­tled cin­ema de­but, Bleak Mo­ments (1971). He worked in television (no­tably on Abi­gail’s Party and Nuts in May, not in this com­pi­la­tion) dur­ing the long gap be­fore his sec­ond fea­ture, Mean­time (1984).

Work­ing mostly on low bud­gets and very of­ten with unfamiliar ac­tors cho­sen for their nat­u­ral­is­tic qual­i­ties, Leigh has shaped his movies through in­ten­sive im­pro­vi­sa­tional ses­sions with his cast, pro­duc­ing raw, acutely ob­served dra­mas of mod­ern life and the hu­man con­di­tion.

The most ef­fec­tive of th­ese have been Naked, Se­crets & Lies and Vera Drake, all of which de­servedly col­lected pres­ti­gious prizes on the fes­ti­val cir­cuit, along with one of Leigh’s rare ven­tures into pe­riod pic­tures for his won­der­fully ex­u­ber­ant Gil­bert & Sul­li­van movie, Topsy-Turvy.

Com­plet­ing the set are High Hopes, Life Is Sweet, Ca­reer Girls and All or Noth­ing (star­ring Les­ley Manville and Ti­mothy Spall, pic­tured above). In ad­di­tion, a disc fea­tures Leigh in con­ver­sa­tion with his reg­u­lar ac­tors, and a 2002 South Bank Show de­voted to Leigh and his work.

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