Mike Leigh

"Leigh at his best is an acute, incisive observer of working- and lower-middle-class behaviour and mores... Meantime, Naked (his most irascibly honest, revealing and cinematically sophisticated film) and much of the admittedly very affecting Secrets and Lies succeed gloriously as perceptive, witty, warts-and-all studies of a particular way of London life." - Geoff Andrew (The Director's Vision, 1999)

Mike Leigh

Director / Screenwriter
(1943- ) Born February 20, Salford, Greater Manchester, England
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Country: UK
Key Genres: Drama, Ensemble Film, Comedy, Comedy Drama, Family Drama, Domestic Comedy, Urban Drama, Comedy of Manners, Romantic Drama, Urban Comedy, Social Problem Film, Satire
Key Collaborators: Simon Channing-Williams (Producer), Dick Pope (Cinematographer), Lesley Manville (Leading Character Actress), Philip Davis (Leading Character Actor), Andrew Dickson (Composer), Jon Gregory (Editor), Ruth Sheen (Character Actress), Alison Steadman (Character Actress), Timothy Spall (Leading Actor), Jim Broadbent (Leading Character Actor), Eve Stewart (Production Designer), Robin Sales (Editor)

"Rather than pontificating on the ideological implications of the average worker’s plight, Leigh’s films dramatize the efficacy of socialism through stories of communities learning to support each other (or of the tragedy of individuals cast adrift). Leigh’s working method also emphasizes group effort; he develops scripts with his cast in an improvisational atmosphere before setting the dialogue down in stone (a technique that also helps the sense of realism)… Leigh’s use of family dynamics makes it easy for most viewers to sympathize with the characters, even when they display unlikable qualities. Combining such dynamics with moments of laughter and tears, Leigh’s films use emotion rather than rhetoric to portray the lives of the working class." - Sean Griffin (Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film, 2007)
"He made his cinema debut with Bleak Moments (1971) and went on to create a body of work noted for its truthful and compassionate dramatization of everyday lives and universal concerns." - Chambers Film Factfinder, 2006
"One of the most independent directors, Mike Leigh has developed individualistic working methods that produce hilarious and realistic critiques of mundane existences." - Ronald Bergan (Film - Eyewitness Companions, 2006)
"While remaining fiercely independent and staunchly left-wing in his attitudes, Leigh has built up a body of work that anatomizes Britain's class system and everyday family life. The best of them, Life is Sweet (1990), Secrets & Lies (1996), All or Nothing (2002), Vera Drake (2004), and his most abrasive film, Naked (1993), articulate a subversive critique of English life that is often funny and often acutely painful. " - Philip Kemp (501 Movie Directors, 2007)
"Along with Ken Loach, he has been responsible for keeping the flame of socially relevant, realist cinema alive in Britain. For his many admirers, the gallery of exceptional performances, the humanity of his stories and the ongoing political commitment of his cinema have made him a treasured figure. His detractors point to a tendency to drift into caricature and suggest his use of humorous stereotyping as an indication of a patronising attitude. However, few would deny his importance in British cinema of the last twenty-five years." - Robert Shail (British Film Directors: A Critical Guide, 2007)
"More than any other post-war British filmmaker, Mike Leigh has nurtured Britain's hallowed tradition of television directors helming feature films of exceptional humour and insight... Leigh's improvisational method places characters and actors at the heart of the work. Descending from the revolution engendered by John Cassavetes, the nouvelle vague, public "happenings" and the Living Theatre, Leigh generates performances partly from the script but more significantly from the stuff of his actors' own experiences, instincts and intuitions." - Richard Armstrong (The Rough Guide to Film, 2007)
"Film-makers should remain true to their principles and never compromise, there is a real revival in the British film industry but there is a danger that we will become colonial servants of Hollywood. We need to maintain our own integrity." - Mike Leigh
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
Naked (1993) , Secrets & Lies (1996)
Recommended
All or Nothing (2002), Vera Drake (2004) , Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) , Another Year (2010)
Worth a Look
Bleak Moments (1971), Hard Labour [TV] (1973), Nuts in May [TV] (1976), Who's Who [TV] (1979), Grown Ups [TV] (1980), Meantime [TV] (1983), High Hopes (1988), Life is Sweet (1990), Topsy-Turvy (1999)
Approach with Caution
Kiss of Death [TV] (1977), Career Girls (1997)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films
Mike Leigh / Favourite Films
American Madness (1932) Frank Capra, Andrei Rublev (1966) Andrei Tarkovsky, The Emigrants (1971) Jan Troell, How a Mosquito Operates (1912) Winsor McCay, I Am Cuba (1964) Mikheil Kalatozov, Jules et Jim (1961) François Truffaut, Radio Days (1987) Woody Allen, Songs from the Second Floor (2000) Roy Andersson, Tokyo Story (1953) Yasujiro Ozu, The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978) Ermanno Olmi.
Source: Sight & Sound (2012)
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Films / Books
    Another Year
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