Attention: Mike Leigh, a film non-review review

Posted on January 26, 2011

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Attention: Mike Leigh

Your films, dear sir, torture me. And for that I am extremely grateful. “Another Year” won’t leave my mind, two weeks after seeing it. Like other of your films, it resonated with the almost stupefying silence of the boredom of humanity and our everyday “getting on with it.” You play with us in a way that – as I’m sure you intend – is almost maddening. There’s always that tiny glimmer of, well, not even happiness, but comfort that you dangle in our periphery knowing that whether we’ve been taught to crave it, or it is simply human nature, it is something we want badly. Then you snatch it from us almost, it seems, with a wag of your finger. Which is exactly how life can be.

Everyone in this film, frankly, is awful. They are supremely pitiable or hopelessly dull or flat-out assholes, or all of the above. The women are impenetrable; the men are repellent. And vice versa. Yet we see the reality in each one, in fact, maybe this revulsion is exactly how we see the reality. None of them is a character or caricature. They may be, when it comes down to it for most people, all too real. They will frighten some because they do not easily, or at all, resolve. They comes to us and leave us supremely and utterly flawed. They are perhaps the most real people I’ve seen on a screen in a long time.

And it tortures me and expands me and makes me feel that perhaps there is a purpose to this “movie” thing. A purpose that exceeds popular or even artistic sentiment. And that is to be a mirror – not in some cliche symbolic or metaphorical way, but in an actual tangible way. It can be us, exactly as we are, thrown back in our own faces so that we may glean the interminable ways in which we are nothing at all but a mass of contradictions, be they beautiful or (all too often) disturbing.

And I thank you for making me put aside pretension and moralizing and some sense of having any real knowledge about how things should be and, once in a while, just fucking LOOKING.

The first film of yours I saw, almost fifteen years ago, was “Secrets & Lies.” I found it excruciatingly hard to get through from what I attributed at the time to boredom. But still you’ve become one of my favorite directors. So I will take this new profundity and re-watch it. Maybe now I am mature enough, or experienced enough, or human enough to understand it. Or maybe it was just boring as hell. We’ll see. That’s life, right?

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Posted in: moody tintypes