Nov 3, 2008

9th Nov 2008 ; Screening of Mike Leigh's Secrets & Lies

Secrets & Lies
A Film by Mike Leigh
Year : 1996
Country : UK
Run time : 142 minutes
English with English sub titles
9th Nov 2008 ; 5.45 pm
Ashwin Hospital Auditorium
Call : 94430 39630

Moment after moment, scene after scene, ``Secrets & Lies'' unfolds with the fascination of eavesdropping. We are waiting to see what these people will do next, caught up in the fear and the hope that they will bring the whole fragile network of their lives crashing down in ruin. When they prevail--when common sense and good hearts win over lies and secrets--we feel almost as relieved as if it had happened to ourselves.
With the heartbreaking ``Serets & Lies,'' English filmmaker Mike Leigh delivers his best and most accessible work to date.
``Secrets & Lies'' isn't the first indication of forgiveness on Leigh's part, but it's much kinder and wiser than anything he's done before. His actors are superb: Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Hortense, a 27-year-old optometrist whose begins the search for her real mother after her adoptive mother's death; and Brenda Blethyn, the best actress winner at this year's Cannes Film Festival, who plays her mother, the hapless, childish Cynthia.
Betrayed by the course her life has taken, Cynthia lives with her 21-year-old daughter Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook), and mourns for a youth she feels was stolen when her mother died and she was left to care for her dad and brother. To top it off, she tells the equally bitter Roxanne, ``I got saddled with you; that was my downfall.'
'Hortense, on the other hand, was raised in a loving family and given a proper education. When she seeks out Cynthia, she doesn't tell her at first that she's her daughter but cultivates a friendship.
Later, when Cynthia brings her home to meet her family-from- hell, all the secrets and lies, the deceptions and abscessed animosities come pouring out.
Like John Cassavetes, whose work is often held up as a standard for emotional rawness on film, Leigh goes right to the core of his character's lives and mines the place where we're weakest, most alone and sometimes the cruelest.
Leigh develops the story slowly, introducing us to each character, and, through actions and dialogue, allowing us to learn about their lives. We are not force-fed facts and details. There are no flashbacks nor is there a voiceover narration.
From beginning to end, Secrets and Lies is exceptionally well thought-out.

Mike Leigh

Given the choice of Hollywood or poking steel pins in my eyes, I'd prefer steel pins. ” — Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh completed his second feature film seventeen years after his stunning debut withBleak Moments in 1971. In those intervening years he solidified his reputation with innovatory theatre and television productions, but his ambition to be a film-maker looked in danger of being unfulfilled. Other directors, including Stephen Frears, retreated into television during this period, but Leigh was additionally hampered by his method of evolving a script through improvisational workshops - too uncertain a process for most film financiers.

Leigh was born in Broughton, Salford, Greater Manchester, the son of Phyllis Pauline and Alfred Abraham Leigh, a doctorin an overwhelmingly working-class area of Salford (near Manchester). Leigh was brought up in a Jewish immigrant family (whose surname was originally "Lieberman", but was anglicised before Leigh's birth). Initially trained as an actor at RADA, Leigh went on to start honing his directing skills at East 15 Acting School where he met the actress Alison Steadman.
He won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1960. He later attended Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, the Central School of Art and Design, and the London Film School.He played small roles in several British films in the early 60's (West 11,Two Left Feet),and a part in the BBC TV series Maigret. In 1965 he began to write and direct his first plays. Leigh has made 21 movies – Bleak Moment (1971) to Happy Go Lucky (2008) – till date.

Leigh uses lengthy improvisations developed over a period of weeks to build characters and storylines for his films. He starts with some sketch ideas of how he thinks things might develop, but does not reveal all his intentions with the cast who discover their fate and act out their responses as their destinies are gradually revealed. Initial preparation is in private with the director and then the actors are introduced to each other in the order that their characters would have met in their lives. Intimate moments are explored that will not even be referred to in the final film to build insight and understanding of history, character and inner motivation.

The critical scenes in the eventual story are performed and recorded in full-costumed, real-time improvisations where the actors encounter for the first time new characters, events or information which may dramatically affect their characters' lives. Final filming is more traditional as definite sense of story, action and dialogue is then in place. The director reminds the cast of material from the improvisations that he hopes to capture on film.

In an interview with Laura Miller, "Listening to the World: An Interview With Mike Leigh," published on, Leigh states, "I make very stylistic films indeed, but style doesn't become a substitute for truth and reality. It's an integral, organic part of the whole thing." Leigh's vision is to depict ordinary life, "real life," unfolding under extenuating circumstances. He makes courageous decisions to document reality. He speaks about the criticism Naked received: "The criticism comes from the kind of quarters where "political correctness" in its worst manifestation is rife. It's this kind of naive notion of how we should be in an unrealistic and altogether unhealthily over-wholesome way"
(Source - Internet)

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