I will be the first to admit that my article on the British working class on film had one glaring absence- despite talking about the progression of that subgenre from the 1960s New Wave and its new "kitchen sink realism" I failed to mention possibly the greatest of all modern exponents of that same gritty realism- Mike Leigh. The director has regularly made some of Britain's best films, and despite accusations of dourness and unnecessary grimness hampering some of the critical reception of his works, he is one of the country's most beloved of directors.
Leigh already has a healthy association with the Cannes film festival, having won Best Director in 1993 for 'Naked' and going on to win the prestigous Palm d'Or for 1996's 'Secrets & Lies', as well as having 'All or Nothing' unsuccessfully in competition in 2002 and sitting on the Jury in 1997. The latest in his association with the festival, 'Another Year' should make a telling impression on the panel of judges at this year's 63rd festival. Personally, I think that there is a good chance that Leigh's lates will walk away with the greatest prize of all at the festival.
The details around 'Another Year' are sketchy at best, with the only real plot details floating around the net as follows:
The film tells the story of a happily married middle aged couple who endure other people's problems.
Sounds like typical Leigh fare to me, and the familiarity continues within the cast: long-term acting muse Lesley Manville returns for her seventh on-screen association with the director and Phil Davis for his sixth, while the other regular faces on show are Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent and Karina Fernandez. Basically, as usual, Leigh has rounded up the richet talents available to him from Britain, and will create the kind of relationships between them on screen that make his films compulsively watchable.
Reasons to be Excited
- Leigh is still the undisputed king of the ab-libbed movie. He legendarily starts without a script and has his actors work around a central concept in a fairly complex series of improvisation stages. The fact of the matter is, a minute amount of film-makers operate under such conditions, and the added pressure is phenomenal: we should never underestimate, or become too familiar with how ground-breaking such a style continues to be.
- That Cannes track record could well be an indication that 'Another Year' will come away a winner this year- and the simple fact remains that a British film winning any of the grand jury prize is great for the industry.
- More of a reason to celebrate the film: 'Another Year' is the last project that unites Mike Leigh with long term collaborator Simon Channing-Williams, who also founded Thin Man Productions with Leigh in 1988, and who sadly died in April last year. The two worked together on every one of Leigh's movies, and anything made by the auteur after 'Another Year' will definitely mark a new phase in his creative life.
- Leigh has an unrivalled ability to pull astounding performances out of his actors, which is made all the more incredible by his process (and probably explains why he generally draws his cast from a fairly small pool of familiar talent): one need only look towards Imelda Staunton's performance in 'Vera Drake', and both Sally Hawkins' and Eddie Marsan's in Leigh's last project 'Happy-Go-Lucky' for elucidation of the point.
- It's a secret: as with all of Leigh's projects there has been very little revealed of 'Another Year' throughout production (hence the flimsy plot detail above) and Im a sucker for a secret. In all honesty I find myself mesmorised by the way Leigh presents 'real' relationships on screen, and how he usually portrays the way in which those relationships deal with a grand moment of adversity, and it is the tradition of keeping as much secret as possible that makes the reveal all the more tantalising.