The early film and television work of Mike Leigh extended so-called “kitchen sink realism” into the Thatcher era, and no one examined the decimation of Britain’s working class in the 1980s with the rigor and humor of Leigh in Meantime, High Hopes, and Life is Sweet.
Leigh reached an artistic apotheosis of sorts in 1993 with Naked, and an breakthrough in the United States with his follow-up Secrets & Lies (1996).
From top: Tim Roth in Meantime (1983); Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Timothy Spall in Secrets & Lies (1996); David Thewlis in Naked (1993); Ruth Sheen and Phil Davis in HighHopes (1988); Jane Horrocks in Life is Sweet(1990).
Mike Leigh—England’s greatest living filmmaker—will be in Los Angeles to present his new film PETERLOO, the story of events leading up to the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, an event that forever changed Great Britain’s electoral system and journalistic practice.
“Each film has its history, its beauty or not beauty, and its meaning. The meaning can change over the years for people who watch the film, because there is a lot of evolution in the sense of history, the sense of understanding. But when you speak about 35 millimeter or DCP or video, it’s unimportant. The film is what it is, but what is different are the people who made the film…
“I change. I wouldn’t do the same film today about Cuba or about the Panthers or about women. Each film has a date glued to it. And what we try is to overcome the date and make a meaning that can be more than 1962 or 1961 or whatever.” — AgnèsVarda
Varda—mother of the nouvelle vague—was born outside Brussels, made some of her most important films in California, and died this morning at her home in Paris.
Active into her late eighties, local audiences remember many of her recent trips to Los Angeles, presenting retrospectives at the American Cinematheque and LACMA, giving talks at the AFI festival, and receiving a Governor’s Award from the Academy in 2017.
Varda—who directed Cléo de 5 à 7 in Paris in 1961—and her husband JacquesDemy (1931–1990) first came to Los Angeles in 1966, Demy eventually directing Model Shop (1969) and Varda making shorts—Uncle Yanco, Black Panthers—in preparation for her first California feature, the remarkable Lions Love (… and Lies) (also 1969). Varda’s final completed work is the soon-to-be-released documentary Varda par Agnès.
From top: Agnès Varda on the set of Lions Love (… and Lies); Varda shooting her second feature Cléo de 5 à 7 in Paris in the early 1960s, photograph by Roger Viollet; Anouk Aimée (left), JacquesDemy, and Varda in Los Angeles during the shoot of Demy’s Model Shop; scene from Varda’s Black Panthers (1968), shot in Oakland; Sabine Mamou (right) and Mathieu Demy—Varda and Demy’s son—in Varda’s feature Documenteur (1981), shot in Los Angeles; Venice Beach scene from the documentary Mur Murs (1981); Varda and Jane Birkin on set, Jane B. par Agnès V. (1988), photograph by Jean Ber; Varda in Varda par Agnès (2019). Images courtesy Ciné-Tamaris.
The final week of the American Cinematheque’s Luchino Visconti retrospective begins with a rare double bill: SENSO (1954)—screening in a 4K DCP—and SANDRA (1965).
With SENSO—unseen on the big screen in Los Angeles for nearly ten years—Visconti took a decisive step away from neorealism. His first feature in color—a gorgeous palette of fiery reds and pastel blues—SENSO opens in an opera house, a reflection of the grand musical and theatrical productions Visconti directed in Rome and Paris in the 1950s.
Alida Valli and Farley Granger were not the director’s first choices for the roles of the Countess and the Lieutenant—Callas, Ingrid Bergman, and Brando were all in negotiation—but the leads give two of their greatest performances in this extraordinarily lush tale of irredeemable character and unrequited love.
SANDRA extends the mood of aristocratic decline defined by Visconti’s previous film TheLeopard. Featuring Claudia Cardinale and JeanSorel in their prime, this elegant film noir of ghosts, betrayals, and revenge is the director’s take on Electra, as summarized by the poster tagline below.
From top: Alida Valli and Farley Granger in Senso (2); Valli; CountLuchino ViscontidiModrone—in playboy mode, just before Chanel introduced him to Jean Renoir, for whom Visconti worked as an assistant director in the late 1930s—photographed in Tunisia in 1935 by his close friend Horst; Visconti and ClaudiaCardinale on set, Sandra; film poster courtesy Vides; Jean Sorel and Cardinale as brother and sister, Sandra.
“I am always thinking about the cinema experience. That’s why I haven’t made television yet. Television is a writer’s medium. Not to say there aren’t good things in it, but television—no matter how good it is—is underwhelming. The size of it, and sitting in your living room. It’s pedestrian, whereas cinema is magic, it’s huge, it envelops you, and there’s something completely sensory when it works.” — Harmony Korine
On the eve of the release of The Beach Bum—his sixth feature—join Korine in Hollywood this week for two nights of double features and between-film conversations.
This American Cinematheque presentation of Korine’s films from the last twenty years includes his masterpiece Spring Breakers. All films will be screened in 35mm.