British Film: Mike Leigh vs. Ken Loach?

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British Film: Mike Leigh vs. Ken Loach?

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Bearbeitet: Feb. 6, 2008, 10:27am

In another thread, I was touting Mike Leigh's Meantime. Now, to pursue some of those thoughts...

For depictions of class and more generally human psychology, I've always preferred Mike Leigh's movies to Ken Loach's. If Leigh is occasionally grotesque, he's no ideological shill, whereas Loach struck me as too didactic and sentimental. I've annoyed some people by saying that: it's a guaranteed argument in the bar with a certain type of leftish intellectual.

But I just saw Loach's It's a Free World and it's easily the best movie I've seen in a long time. Set in London, about the struggles of Brits, Poles and others. It's making me think twice.

So, here's the question(s): Leigh or Loach? Or, more particularly, on It's a Free World? Or: where are the American directors?


(N.B. Touchstones aren't working here)

Feb. 6, 2008, 2:16pm

I know Leigh's work better than Loach's, so I have to brush up on Loach's movies and especially see It's A Free World. In my opinion, Hollywood is hopelesss when it comes to working-class movies. Mostly, the industry simply ignores the topic, or it uses it to make bad comedies. "North Country" and "Norma Rae" may be exceptions that prove the rule--and look how far apart these are chronologically. The classic "The Salt of the Earth" (Biberman, 1954) may be too didactic for many. There was a recent film about Biberman, but it focused chiefly on his having been blacklisted, not on working-class issues. For the most part, in the U.S., one has to look for documentaries or for very small, very independent films (what Hollywood calls "independent" is increasingly "dependent" on Hollywood distribution and financing, etc.)

Apr. 29, 2008, 4:13am

I haven't seen enough of Leigh's work to provide any thoughtful commentary, and, therefore, I will have to resort to a counter-question: would we even watch and discuss Loach's work if he were to tone down his biases?

Apr. 29, 2008, 5:43pm

>3 BGP: It depends. I wonder if we might actually see more of Loach's work (especially in the US) if he were to tone down his biases, and make himself more like Mike Newell or something.

But that would be too bad, and toning down is not my choice of words.

As I said in the post above, I think Loach's It's a Free World is very good indeed. It's not toned down, perhaps, as much as it's more nuanced. That's the difference.

Recently I watched Land and Freedom again and it's not remotely as good.

As for Leigh, in Britain at least he's now enjoying lots of attention after years of relative obscurity. He's plugging a new film, Happy-Go-Lucky, which isn't in general release yet, at least not in my part of Europe. Haven't seen it yet.

My vibe, though, (I hope I'm wrong) is that Leigh's best work is behind him. Recently "Vera Drake" got him international attention but it's also an "issue" movie about abortion that sometimes cloys, and it pales beside
the wondrous and painful ambiguities of Meantime. Or Life is Sweet, an earlier "issue" movie, is also much better than Vera Drake, though hardly anybody's seen it.

Maybe I'm guilty of being cultish about Meantime, and it requires repeated viewings to take it in, but I'm convinced that it reaches very high in many respects.