British Film: Mike Leigh vs. Ken Loach?
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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)
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.