Michael Leigh (Britain, 1943) debuted as a playwright with
"The Box Play" (1965)
"My Parents Have Gone to Carlisle" (1966)
"The Last Crusade of Five Little Nuns" (1966)
"Individual Fruit Pies" (1968)
"Glum Victoria and the Lad with Specs" (1969).
After Bleak Moments (1971), originally a theatrical play (1970),
which was followed by many TV films such as
Home Sweet Home (1982) and
specialized in the domestic dramas of the lower middle-class such as
High Hopes (1988)
and Life is Sweet (1990).
Meanwhile he wrote many theatrical plays:
"A Rancid Pong" (1971),
"Wholesome Glory" (1973),
"The Jaws of Death" (1973),
"Dick Whittington and His Cat" (1973),
"Babies Grow Old" (1974),
"The Silent Majority" (1974),
"Abigail's Party" (1977),
"Smelling a Rat" (1988),
"Greek Tragedy" (1989),
In the 1990s he turned to cinema in earnest.
Naked (1993) is a painful portrait of
a failed intellectual who preys on lonely people,
who seems to hark back to the
"angry young men" of four decades earlier, the "Lucky Jim" (Kingsley Amis)
and the Jimmy Porter of "Look Back in Anger" (John Osborne).
He is easily defeated by his own lifestyle.
His counterpart is an even more sadistic devil, who seems to exist only
to make the failed, self-destructive intellectual look human.
A young man, Johnny, is raping a woman against a garbage can in a narrow dark
alley. She manages to escape. He runs the other way and steals a car.
He heads for the place where his former girlfriend Louise lives. At home
he finds the slightly deranged drug-addicted housemate, Sophie, whom he promptly seduces with
his erudite speech and decadent manners. He manages to offend the good Louise.
Johnny coughs a lot. He soon turns violent with Sophie but she obviously needs
him more than he needs her. He upsets both girls, then kisses both, then leaves
the house to be on his own, clearly indifferent to the fate of both.
He spends the evening walking around the city.
Meanwhile, a handsome rich young man, Jeremy, courts the masseuse at his
gym. He takes her to dinner at a fancy restaurant and sort of entertains her
in his arrogant tone. Then he invites her to his cozy flat where he rapes
her after telling her that he plans to commit suicide when he turns 40.
A cursing boy, Archie, who is obsessively looking for a Maggie, but it is not
clear whether Maggie is a girl or a pet. She finally shows up just when Archie
left the scene. Johnny takes her for a walk among the homeless and then buys
something to eat. Then they walk back and finally find Archie. The kids
curse at each other and run away. It is daylight now. Johnny lights a cigarette
and watches the crowds going to work.
Johnny ends the evening crouching against the front door of an office building,
coughing and freezing. A security guard who recites religious verses lets him
in, amused by Johnny's erudite eloquence. Ironically the building is empty.
The guard says that he's just guarding "space".
As usual, Johnny rudely explores the man's loneliness.
Then Johnny out of the blue displays a deep knowledge of the scriptures.
He has his own interpretation of the "Book of Revelation": the "number of the
beast" (666) means the bar code that is engraved on every product, and that
some day will be implanted in the flesh of people to
create a cashless society.
Another passage about a wormwood refers to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
An astronomical alignment proves that the "four horsemen of the apocalypse"
are coming. In other words, Johnny believs that the end of the world is coming.
The good guard is disoriented: his only consolation is to hope for a better
future, and Johnny is telling him that there will be no future.
They keep walking around the empty and silent building. From one of the windows
they can see a girl who lives in the building across the street. Obviously the
guard spent many hours staring at her. It is time for Johnny to leave.
Sensing that the girl is lonely, Johnny walks straight across the street and
asks the girl (who turns out to be not as young as he thought) if he can come
in. She's drunk and wears a pajama.
She's also sexually frustrated because she immediately starts licking him.
When he undresses her, she feels no pleasure.
Meanwhile, Jeremy is driving his sport car and talking on the phone in French.
He has a gorgeous date in the passenger seat. His normal life seems to be
a mixture of lucrative business and hot dates. One day he shows up in Sophie's
living room. He introduces himself as a friend of Sandra, the third housemate
who is currently abroad, but Sophie soon realizes that he is the landlord.
His real name turns out to be Sebastian. He is immediately abusive to her
and forces her into a painful and humiliating sexual game. He grabs her
hair and rapes her from behind.
Johnny meets an older man (his father?) who doesn't enjoy seeing him and plans
to retire in Ireland. At the restaurant where they briefly chat Johnny meets
the charming and shy waitress wearing a very long skirt; another
vulnerable lonely soul. She cooks him dinner and they chat. By delving deeper
into her loneliness, soon he makes her cry. However, his charm does not work
with this one: she kicks him out, indifferent to the freezing temperature outside.
Louise comes home to find a naked Sebastian/Jeremy walking around the house.
She tells Sebastian to get out but he refuses and the girls can't call the
police because Sophie has drugs all over the place.
Johnny tries to befriend a young man who is paid to post bills on walls,
but his endless intellectual rant gets on the nerves of this one, who beats
him up and leaves him on a sidewalk. Worse: five punks attack him in a narrow
alley. He crawls to Louise's flat, bleeding and coughing. While Louise and
Sophie try to carry him to the bedroom, he is shaken by an epileptic fit.
The commotion wakes up Jeremy/Sebastian, who is disgusted by the sight of
the filthy bleeding epileptic.
At last, the third housemate, Sandra, returns from her trip abroad.
She is shocked to find not one but three people in her bed (Johnny, Louise,
Sophie) and Sebastian, whom she does know. Sandra finds Sebastian's wallet
that has ids and credit cards under the name Jeremy, a fact that further
While Sandra is still under shock, Jeremy tries to seduce Louise, who threatens
to cut his dick with a steak knife. Sandra is a good woman: she kicks Jeremy
out and takes care of Johnny's wounds. His leg looks particularly bad: he
can't walk. Sophie has a breakdown and decides to
move out. And it sounds like Sandra went to Africa with her boyfriend but now
they broke up. When in the morning Louise goes to work,
Johnny tries in vain to have a conversation with Sandra.
So he steals some money from the girls and limps his way out of the house.
If English is your first language and would like to translate my old Italian text, contact me. |
Secrets And Lies (1996) e` una tragi-commedia alla Pinter.
Le storie parallele di un fotografo, Morris, la cui moglie e` nevrotica,
di una donna alcoolizzata, Cynthia, che lavora in fabbrica e vive con la figlia,
e di un'oculista di colore, la cui madre adottiva e` appena morta.
Una parata (comica) di clienti del fotografo, buon uomo con infinita pazienza.
L'oculista, orthense, ha deciso di scoprire chi sia la sua vera madre, e, con l'aiuto
di un'agenzia governativa, rintraccia Cynthia. Cynthia e` la sorella di
Morris, e Morris ha deciso di dare un party per il compleanno della nipote,
che, non avendo lui figli, e` un po' come sua figlia. Questa e` ai ferri corti
con la madre, non ne sopporta piu` la debolezza e l'isterismo.
Cynthia accetta di incontrarsi con l'oculista, e, dopo un primo momento di
sbigottimento, si ricorda di aver avuto un figlio da un uomo di colore. La sua
vita sentimentale e` stata tormentata e torbida. In breve fra le due donne
si stabilisce un'amicizia: e` la prima persona che vuole bene a Cynthia, che
cerca la sua compagnia. Cynthia la invita al party di compleanno.
Al party viene fuori tutta la verita`. Cynthia si lascia scappare che Orthense
e` sua figlia, e Morris rivela che la moglie non puo` avere figli, e per tale
ragione e` nevrotica. E` paradossale che Cynthia, che non e` mai stata seria
nei rapporti sentimentali, ha avuto piu` figli di quanti ne volesse, e ne
aveva persino dimenticato uno, mentre la moglie di Morris, che ha vissuto la
vita della casalinga modello, non puo` averne nemmeno uno. Cynthia accusa
infatti Monica di esserle sempre stata ostile. Morris finalmente sbotta, dovendo
stare sempre in mezzo a tre donne che si odiano a vicenda. Orthense paga il
prezzo di voler scoprire la verita`: vede le meschinita` di una famiglia media
della borghesia e causa un'esplosione delle tensione che erano tenute
Career Girls (1997)
Topsy Turvy (1999) is a self-indulgent and nostalgic movie which steers away from Leigh's traditional concerns with domestic dramas and sociological analysis. In the tradition of Broadway's musicals, the movie is about making a show. In this case, it is the operetta that saved Gilbert and Sullivan's career, after Sullivan had been victim of an existential crisis. The movie details how the crisis was solved by a stroke of luck and turned into a phenomenal success. The merit of the movie is not the story or a profound meaning, it is simply the faithful reconstruction of the beginning of the century and the affectionate portrait of actors, musicians and actors.
If English is your first language and would like to translate my old Italian text, contact me.
Topsy Turvy (1999) e` invece una affettuosa rievocazione storica, un
divertissment di classe che esula dal tema sociale e dagli scavi psicologici
a cui Leigh aveva abituato.
Il compositore Arthur Sullivan e il suo socio scrittore di libretti Gilbert
sono sulla cresta dell'onda. Arthur e` un decadente dissoluto che ama le
donne. Gilbert e` un aristocratico compassato che non tollera le donne,
neppure la propria dedicata moglie. Arthur viene colto da una crisi
esistenziale: e` stanco di scrivere musiche per i temi sciocchi del
partner e ha deciso di andare a rigenerarsi in Francia. Fatto ritorno dalle
sue orgie parigine, Arthur si oppone recisamente all'idea di musicare
l'ennesimo libretto del socio. Il celeberrimo duo sembra sull'orlo di
disintegrarsi, ma fortunatamente la moglie convince Gilbert ad accompagnarla
a una mostra del folklore giapponese e li` Gilbert viene colto da un'idea
geniale: scrivere un'operetta giapponese. Quando la legge, Arthur ne e`
deliziato. Il sodalizio si ricompone. Iniziano i lunghi ed estenuanti
preparativi per allestire l'opera. Gilbert lavora con gli attori e Arthur
con i musicisti. Ciascun attore ha i suoi problemi, ma tutti insieme riescono
a compiere miracoli. Gilbert si dimostra anche piu` umano di quanto sembri
quando accetta, su pressione degli attori, di re-introdurre una canzone
che aveva cancellato demoralizzando il cantante. La prima e` un trionfo.
Tutti sono felici, meno Gilbert, che non sa come comportarsi davanti al
successo. Sta per andare a letto con la moglie, che invano spera in un
impeto di entusiasmo. Gilbert sta invece gia` ruminando cosa scrivere per
il prossimo libretto. E` la moglie a dargli un'idea interessante.
Intanto Arthur e` a sua volta alle prese con un problema non meno grave:
la sua amante e` rimasta di nuovo incinta e dovra` di nuovo sottoporsi a
Il film e` autoindulgente. Molte scene potrebbero durare pochi secondi e
invece durano decine di minuti. Leigh si toglie la soddisfazione di far
vedere quanto e` bravo nelle messinscene, nella direzione degli attori,
nella ricostruzione storica, nell'esplorazione di minute sfumature
All or Nothing (2002) paints a fresco of working-class lives.
Vera Drake (2004) is a post-war, pre-boom period drama that, in typical Leigh
fashion, can't help making a political statement (about abortion), but mainly
succeeds on the strength of its portrayal of an ordinary family, in particular
the almost magical mother. Leigh excels, as usual, at domestic scenes of
intense psychology, when people's emotions are confronted with people's
social links. Leigh is critical as usual towards the state, although at the
end the film partially vindicates the cold bureaucracy of the state (Vera's
actions were indeed dangerous) and in that sense shifts the focus from
what could have been a sermon on state-sanctioned injustice to the portrait
of a naive fairy queen.
The action takes place just after World War II, when the economy is still
recovering from the destruction of the war.
A nice, kind, polite middle-aged woman enters the apartment of a sick man
and makes him tea. He is hardly reacting at all to her presence and kindness.
She is equally nice to neighbors she meets on the stairs.
She smiles at everybody. She lives in a small flat
with her husband Stan and two grown up children, Sid and Ethel.
She is happy to cook and clean, and has a cheerful effect on the poor family.
That family is a big contrast with the family she works for, a rich family
that owns a big nicely-furnished house.
At home Vera wants her shy introverted daughter Ethel to meet a nice young
man, Reg, who just returned traumatized from the war.
Meanwhile, the rich family is trying to pair their elegant daughter Sally with a
rich handsome boy. When her parents leave them alone,
she cannot resist him as he forces himself on her. clearly only interested
in sex, and she loses her virginity.
Sid has a good business as a taylor. His father (Vera's husband) has a mechanic shop.
Sid is still single, but rules in pubs and dancehalls.
Vera doesn't seem to get tired ever. She's always on the move. She
visits her ailing mother in between duties at home and at her employer's
mansion. Then she walks into the humble apartment of a single girl, and,
with the usual smile and without taking any money,
performs an abortion (the technique is shown and explain in detail).
The lover of the girl is waiting outside but the girl slams the door in his
At home she is visited by her friend Lily, another middle-aged woman, who turns
out is the intermediary who finds the girl in need of an abortion.
Reg and Ethel are slowly become more accustomed to each other, although it is
hardly a wild passion.
Vera's next case is a mother of seven, who can't afford another one.
Stan's brother Frank is married to Vera's opposite, a sex-starved materialistic
Sally has lunch in a fancy restaurant with an old acquaintance, an older woman,
who appears to be an open-minded independent woman, and sends her to a doctor.
The doctor coldly tells her how much it would cost to have an abortion, but
first she is required to see a psychiatrist.
The psychiatrist asks her all sorts of personal questions (and makes her
as uncomfortable as Vera makes her patients comfortable).
Sally hesitates to answer the question whether she was a virgin and can't answer
the question whether she was raped or not. The only thing that is clear in her
mind is that she'd rather commit suicide than have the child.
She gets her abortion in a nice clinic.
Lily meets one of the women who wants a cheap abortion (her husband is a
soldier in Korea) and charges her money to put her in touch with Vera.
Later Lily gives the address to Vera, without any mention of the money.
Reg and Ethel get engaged. He's not the most passionate of lovers but
she's ecstatic. When Reg formally asks her father, he can hardly believe it.
Vera is equally enthusiastic.
While Vera and her husbamd are celebrating the news at a pub, one of Vera's
patients almost dies. At the hospital the doctor blames the homemade abortion
and, determined to stop the practice of illegal abortions, extorts a
confession and informs the police.
A detective, Webster, is put in charge of the investigation and quickly
tracks down Lily.
The detective is ready to arrest Vera.
Vera's family is getting ready for a big dinner to cebrate the engagement.
Frank and his reluctant wife Joyce arrive. Reg arrives. They all sit at the
table and the father gives a toast. Frank has another news for the family:
Joyce is pregnant. Just then the police car parks in front
of the building. Minutes later Vera is arrested in front of her family.
She knows why the moment they walk in. The detective almost whispers to her,
understanding that this is a good woman, not a criminal.
He is almost ashamed to tell her husband that he's taking her away.
The most humiliating moment for Vera is when she has to give her wedding
ring to the female guard at the police station:
she never took off the wedding ring before.
Her husband is not told what this is about and is left alone in the waiting
room without any explanation while the detective interrogates Vera.
The second worst thing for Vera is to learn that Lily was charging money
for what Vera considered mere humanitarian help. Lily was basically making
money out of Vera's generosity.
The detective is kind enough to allow Vera to be the one to tell her husband
what is going on.
When she is finally allowed to return home, the family is divided: Stan and
Ethel stand by Vera, but Sid is shocked and disgusted to hear that her mother
has been killing babies, possibly hundreds of them; and Sid is even more
resentful that she never told them, she never even told her own husband.
Reg, instead, summarizes the sociopolitical dilemma: if you are rich, it's ok
to have an abortion (we have seen Sally do it in a nice clinic), but not if
you are poor. It is Christmas, but the festive mood is ruined. However, Reg
thanks Vera for giving him the best Christmas in a long time, probably
implying that he has a real family and, even if the situation is grave,
at least he is now part of a family's situation.
Unlike the detective's interrogation, that still maintained a humane dimension,
the courtroom proceedings are coldly bureaucratic.
Her entire family in the audience. Vera pleads guilty.
She listens in tears as her attorney defends her good intentions.
The judge could care less that she is a good human being and sends her to
prison for more than two years.
The consequences are dire not only on Vera's spirit, but also on the many
people she was helping, starting with her own mother.
In prison Vera meets other women who are guilty of the same crime, and realizes
the gravity of homemade abortions upon hearing how many girls died of it.
For the theater Leigh wrote "Two Thousand Years" (2005) and
Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) is another of Leigh's masterful character
studies of women.
A talkative girl, Poppy, enters a bookstore and tries in vain to make conversation with the grumpy owner. She finds that someone stole her bicycle but
simply makes a joke to herself about it.
At night she goes dancing with female friends, and later they head to her place
and make silly jokes.
The following morning her younger sister Suzy leaves. She has to take an examination.
Poppy and her housemate Zoe are both primary school teachers and look at books of birds to make masks with empty paper bags for lessons on birds.
Poppy wants to learn how to drive. Zoe tells her not in her car.
Poppy chats with her black friend Tash who is stressed by her mother to get married.
Poppy books her first driving lesson.
She drinks with Tash and Zoe and discuss how kids don't go out of their homes
anymore because of videogames and Internet.
Her driving instructor is the grumpy Scott.
She tries to make chit-chat but he is not in the mood to socialize.
She laughs about everything.
He gets angry when he realizes that she is wearing high-heeled shoes.
Nonetheless, later Poppy tells Zoe that he made her laugh all the time.
The school's principal, Heather, invites Poppy to join her for some
hurts herself on a trampoline and has to see a chiropractor Ezra.
She laughes all the time as he painfully fixes her strained nerve.
The driving instructor goes crazy because she can't focus on the driving.
She is always in a good mood, and he can't stand her.
She is shocked when he is afraid of black kids on bikes: he is obviously
a bit racist.
Heather drives her to the flamenco lessons,
but Poppy cant keep serious during the lessons run by the haughty Spanish
dancer who gets very emotional about dancing.
At school Poppy sees a child, Nick, beating up another child.
The first time she only observes and doesn't intervene.
Scott is even more annoyed that she's still easily distracted while at the wheel.
He is also hostile to education that, in his opinion, brainwashes citizens.
She correctly guesses that he was bullied at school: he is a grown-up Nick.
She finds Nick again beating up another child.
Meanwhile she enjoys the flamenco lessons.
When Nick hurts another schoolmate, this time she confronts him.
She wanders what makes the child so angry.
She tells Heather.
Walking back home alone at night, she runs into a
homeless man who is mumbling and stammering senseless sentences.
She is not scared, and spends quite a bit of time with him,
even if the man is not able to utter a single coherent sentence.
At home she and Zoe lament that there seem to be no good men left.
Poppy is 30 years old.
Heather calls a social worker to speak with Nick, and this Tim manages to
get truth out of the child: his
mom's boyfriend Jason beats him.
Tim likes teacher Poppy and gives her his phone number for a date.
Meanwhile she's still taking driving lessons from Scott.
Scott confesses to her that he doesn't like his mother and his dad is dead.
He finally opens up a bit about his private life.
Poppy tells him that she's been sharing a flat with Zoe for ten years, and
lets him believe that they are in a lesbian relationship.
He gets very angry that she is still wearing the same boots.
She makes stupid jokes while driving that drive him crazy.
She's irresponsible and can't behave like an adult.
He again expresses racist views.
He too seems to be an angry child like Nick.
Zoe drives Poppy and Poppy's younger sister Suzy to visit their sister
Helen, who is pregnant.
Helen stops Jamie and Suzy from playing videogames and then
Helen reproaches Poppy for still behaving like a child, carefree,
unmarried, with no children.
Suzy accuses Helen to try to control everybody.
The following Helen's husband Jamie and the guests go for a walk by the sea.
Poppy gets a call from Tim and they decide on a friday date.
When Zoe, Poppy and Suzy drive home, they see Scott waiting near her place,
but he runs away when she calls his name.
On their first date, Tim takes her to his apartment and they make love.
When Scott comes to pick her up for the driving lesson, Tim is with her,
and Scott sees them kissing.
Scott denies waiting in front of her place.
Then he drives like a madman, yelling at other drivers and pedestrians.
He sounds paranoid about speed cameras.
Poppy starts driving but surprisingly she decides that he can't
function properly and she insists on driving him home.
Scott assaults her to get the car keys back.
She runs out with the keys and he chases her in the street.
He accuses her of flirting with him and of being vain and selfish.
She understands that he is in love with her and jealous.
She calms him down, then hands him the keys and says goodbye.
He wants to know about Tim but she refuses to answer.
She walks back home, this time not smiling.
Another day she is enjoying a boat ride with Zoe in a lake.
Zoe accuses Poppy of being too nice.
The boat ride becomes a metaphor for life. Poppy
keeps smiling. She picks up the phone and it's Tim.
Another Year (2010)
biopic Mr Turner (2014)