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Mike Leigh: Harsh but extraordinary

British master moviemaker, Mike Leigh, is not one to please us with pretty faces and handsome hunks. Most of his films have very ordinary looking men and women, sometimes even ugly, writes Gautaman Bhaskaran.

entertainment Updated: May 18, 2010 20:34 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran

British master moviemaker, Mike Leigh, is not one to please us with pretty faces and handsome hunks. Most of his films have very ordinary looking men and women, sometimes even ugly. But his cinema provokes in an extraordinary way. With movies like Veera Drake, Secretsand Lies and Naked behind him, Leigh is reputed for his deep and analytical characterisation. He looks hard into each of his characters who are thrilling and rare in the annals of cinema history.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTEditImages/Images/Anotheryear1.jpg

A scene from Another year

Now at the Cannes Film Festival with his Another Year competing with 18 others for the Palm d’Or, Leigh gives us yet another slice of British life here. It narrates the story of an elderly couple as they go through their life in a span of 12 months. It will be critically acclaimed, though its rating on popularity charts may not be anything to rave about.

Leigh’s sympathy for the lonely and the unhappy is screened through the couple’s own lives and those of their friends/relatives. Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen play happily married Tom and Gerri. She is a medical counselor and he an engineering geologist. Their 30-year-old son, Joe, is a lawyer. Another Year tells us how these three tend their little vegetable garden and work and read and host home dinners for friends. One of them is Mary, a colleague, unhappily single and eying to hook Joe But when he brings home his girlfriend, Mary is devastated and gets nasty.

Another Year begins in Spring and ends in Winter, and does not let us forget that at the heart of the movie is a disturbing feeling called loneliness. And Mary epitomises this in all its starkness. "Life does become clearer and more complicated," Leigh told journalists the morning after the first screening of his film.

True, and Leigh can make it even more so. He is known to be quite harsh with the media. He refused to answer the very first question at the Press conference from a British journalist, who later said he had reviewed one of Leigh's recent movies unfavorably and had, many years previously, written a profile of Leigh.

The director is known to be impatient and rude, and there are some journalists here who say they will never interview the man if they can help it.

Sadly though, Leigh makes gripping cinema.