martedì 13 dicembre 2011

Leigh Moments

I admire many contemporary filmmakers, but there is one who’s always been special to me.
His name is Mike Leigh, he is British, he is 68 years old, and I simply adore him (as a matter of fact, I already wrote about him in my post: On Sunday afternoon, Leigh held a Master Class at the Forum des Images, one of the many events related to the retrospective London calling/Londres au cinéma and, useless to say, your Zazie was there! 
The conversation, a dialogue between the director and French journalist Pascal Mérigeau, was inspiring, rich and absolutely exciting. Leigh talked extensively about his very particular method of working with actors, which I believe is quite unique in the cinema world. Leigh starts rehearsal with the actors he has chosen for a movie many months in advance (sometimes even six!) before the shooting and then the shooting itself is super quick, from one to three weeks maximum. Actors don’t know much about the plot, and the strictly necessary about their own role. They’re put together with other actors and they start working on a sketch Leigh gives them and they improvise on that. Basically, they do so over and over again, on different sketches, in order to become, day by day, little by little, their “character”. Leigh told an incredible story about his movie Vera Drake, the tale of a woman practicing illegal abortions in the London of 1950: during the rehearsal, a group of actors was playing a family gathered to celebrate the daughter’s engagement, and another group of actors, playing policemen, suddenly broke into the room. None of them knew what was going on. The effect was quite incredible, Leigh reckoned. We actually witnessed it few minutes before, when we saw this same scene on the screen: the surprise, the tension, the drama of that moment was absolutely amazing. The result of Leigh’s method is that the performance of each actor is simply ASTONISHING. It is not by chance that many of his actors have been rewarded: David Thewlis for Naked (1993) at the Cannes Film Festival (and Leigh for Best Director), Imelda Staunton for Vera Drake (2004) at the Venice Film Festival (and the movie received a Golden Lion) and Brenda Blethyn for Leigh’s masterpiece Secrets and Lies (1996) at the Cannes Film Festival (and the movie won the Palme d’Or), for which she also received a Golden Globe and she was nominated for an Oscar (why she didn’t get it, it is still a mystery to me). The scene where she talked for the first time to the daughter she abandoned as a child, with the two women seated side by side in front of the camera and filmed by Leigh in this way, represents for me one of the highlights of the entire cinema history. I challenge you to find another scene having the same emotional impact. 
 Leigh explained that what he is interested in is the reproduction of reality as he perceives it, and for this he needs actors willing to forget completely about themselves, therefore not narcissist, but humble, patient and (possibly) having a good sense of humour. The journalists asked him if in his career he was sometimes wrong in choosing his cast. Apparently, he was very lucky and only in few occasions he was obliged to relegate actors in very small roles, and even more rarely to cancel their participation to a picture. Leigh also discussed about the essential contribution of his collaborators, like his cinematographer Dick Pope (with whom he worked for his entire career), who helps him a great deal to find the right “tone” for a movie: dark and gloomy for Naked, bright and carefree for Happy-go-Lucky or even a mix of both styles for the representation of the four seasons in his last movie, Another Year.
The cinema of Mike Leigh, thanks to all these elements, has the capacity of capturing THE moment, a slice of real life sometimes even too cruel to look at, but always incredibly truthful, human and compassionate. You can feel at any moment how much Leigh loves his characters: he is never judging them, even the bad or the unbearable ones, he is always trying to understand and love them for what they are. 
 After the lecture, some fans stopped Leigh asking for autographs. He was really kind to everybody, even to an evidently disturbed young man (an Italian, I’m afraid to say so) who started making a list of all the great British film directors of cinema history. Leigh listened to him quite carefully, and then he said: Yes, right, but David Lynch is not British, my dear. The man kept going, switching to the awful situation of Italian cinema (!!!), telling him that nowadays we don’t have the great filmmakers we used to have. Leigh, once again, very calmly, looked at him and said: Maybe it is so, except for Ermanno Olmi. I wanted to kiss him! But I curbed my enthusiasm and I simply thanked him for his cinema.
When the journalist, at the end of their conversation, asked him to give a piece of advice to the young filmmakers present in the audience, Leigh turned his witty look into the crowd and in a very loud voice announced: Never compromise! 
He surely never did.

2 commenti:

  1. Doppio e triplo accidenti! Ecco dove avevo visto la tizia di F.B.I. Portés disparus!
    Sei sempre un'inesauribile fonte di risorse, Zazie!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...