Mike Leigh turns 70

British filmmaker Mike Leigh turns 70 today. To mark the occasion, I have re-posted all of my articles on him and his films, starting with a phone interview that I did with him for the UBC student newspaper back in 1996.

The occasion for that interview was the release of Secrets & Lies, which I quickly came to regard as my favorite film of the 1990s. Alas, the interview itself did not go as well as I might have hoped, since I was rather under the weather when the appointed time came, and the only free phone was right in the middle of the student-newspaper office — and this was on a production night, no less. So it was very noisy at my end, and I wasn’t quite as on-the-ball as I should have been, and, well, let’s just leave it at that. But it was still an honour to speak to him, and I can only hope that some day I might get the chance to do so again, under better circumstances.

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Review: Happy-Go-Lucky (dir. Mike Leigh, 2008)

Happiness is an elusive quality in a Mike Leigh film. Sometimes, in his films, you will meet characters who try to cheer other people up, but there is usually a darker side to their perkiness. The photographer who tries to get people to smile in Secrets and Lies is stressed out by conflicts within his family; the woman who provides illegal abortions in Vera Drake naively tells her clients they will all be “right as rain” after she has left, and is caught off-guard when one of them almost dies thanks to her efforts; and when Gilbert & Sullivan premiere their latest musical comedy in Topsy-Turvy, a depressed Gilbert responds to the applause by privately grumbling to his neglected wife, “There’s something inherently disappointing about success.”

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Faith & film

The unexpected success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ proved that it’s no longer taboo to make faith-based entertainment and that there’s a huge Christian market just waiting to be explored. So it was only a matter of time before major corporations, who already own some of the biggest Christian book and music labels, turned their attention to film.

Sony Pictures – the studio that made The Da Vinci Code – also promotes Christian movies through its Provident Films label. They had a huge success last year with the low-budget sports movie Facing the Giants, which was produced by a church in Georgia for only $100,000 and went on to gross more than $10 million.

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Review: Kinsey (dir. Bill Condon, 2004); Vera Drake (dir. Mike Leigh, 2004)

THERE are two ways to handle a highly controversial issue, especially when you are looking at the form that that issue took several decades ago, before our culture had settled into its current attitudes and assumptions. Two recent films, both of which take place in the post-war era, offer a stark study in contrasts between these two approaches.

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