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Monday, May 16, 2011

AFI/BFI #207: Life Is Sweet (1990)

Director: Mike Leigh
Writer: Mike Leigh
Composer: David Snell
AFI Rank:  -
BFI Rank: 95


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

You could argue that you cannot get more english than a Mike Leigh film. He occupies only two spots on the BFI top 100 but then again he has hardly been a prolific film director (if you ignore all his theater work). But what he lacks in quantity he has made up for in quality. He doesn't develop properties, or even work from a script. He creates real living breathing worlds occupied by truly believable people. He does it by using incredibly talented and often overlooked actors and giving them the space and freedom to create something special. Hi style is epitomized in the funny and sublime Life Is Sweet.

Leigh knows how to assemble a cast and oh man what a cast. The loving couple played by Alison Steadman and Jim Broadbent with Claire Skinner and Jane Horrocks cast perfectly as very believable sisters. Stephen Rea as the shifty Patsy, a man you wouldn't trust as far as you can throw him. A young David Thewlis makes a cameo. But the stand out performance is from Timothy Spall who creates a character so memorable he should have gotten his own film. Who wouldn't want to try Saveloy on a bed of Lychees or Tongues in a Rhubarb Hollandaise?

Outstanding performances from Timothy Spall and Jane Horrocks
By now you must know I hate spoilers and this film is especially hard to describe without giving anything away. So simply take my word for it. This is truly Crucial Cinema and worth every moment of your time. 

Your biggest challenge, if you are in the US, will be getting your hands on a copy. There is no US DVD release and no streaming version available. Amazon does now have a burned on demand DVD-R for $20. I watched the UK DVD ordered from Amazon UK and shipped to the US. The transfer is surprisingly good and your best bet as there is no street date for a blu ray release.


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