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Secrets And Lies [DVD]
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Comedy drama written and directed by Mike Leigh. Hortense Cumberbatch (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is a young, black Londoner who, after the death of her adoptive parents, is surprised to discover that her birth mother is in fact white, single mum Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn). After an uncomfortable first meeting, Cynthia strikes up a rapport with Hortense and invites her to the 21st birthday party of her youngest daughter Roxanne (Claire Rushbrook) where she meets Cynthia's brother Maurice (Timothy Spall) and his wife Monica (Phyllis Logan). Mike Leigh's bittersweet comedy was nominated for five Oscars.
If a film fan had never heard of director Mike Leigh, one might explain him as a British Woody Allen. Not that Leigh's films are whimsical or neurotic; they are tough-love examinations of British life--funny, outlandish and biting. His films share a real immediacy with Allen's work: they feel as if they are happening now. Leigh works with actors--real actors--on ideas and language. There is no script at the start (and sometimes not at the end). Secrets and Lies involves Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), an elegant black woman wanting to learn her birth mother's identity. She will find it's Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn), who is one of the saddest creatures we've seen in film. She's also one of the most real and, ultimately, one of the most loveable. Timothy Spall is Cynthia's brother, a giant man full of love who is being slowly defeated by his fastidious wife (Phyllis Logan).
There is a great exuberance of life in Secrets & Lies, winner of the Palme D'Or and best actress (Blethyn) at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival--not Zorba-type life but the little battles fought and won every day. Leigh's honest interpretation of daily life is usually found only on the stage. Secrets & Lies is more realistic than a stage production, however, especially when Leigh shows us uninterrupted scenes. Critic David Denby states that Leigh has "made an Ingmar Bergman film without an instant of heaviness or pretension." If that sounds like your cup of tea, see Secrets & Lies. --Doug Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Leigh reveals to us how secrets and lies can cause upset, pain,
and regret in what has to be one of the best British films of the 90's. With spot-on dialogue and glorious performances it is hard to find fault with Leighs master work. The stand out for me is brenda Blethyn as working-class poor Cynthia. Just when we thought Cynthia would live out the rest of her days as a worker in a banal factory, with her confrontational daughter Roxanne, she is thrown a life line in the form of Hortense, and we see their relationship flourish. Timothy Spall is also on top form as the glue that holds the family together.
The film is a harsh but realistic portrayal of the British family although the ending is fairly predictable and the film seems long on repeat viewings, you can't help but feel uplifted by the sentimental outcome.
The most remarkable aspect of the film is the acting, as one would expect with Leigh. Although it was Brenda Blethyn to whom one's eye is attracted and to whom all praise was aimed, she is just one of a cast full of superb characterisations. Her trembling, knife-edge performance is indeed touching and memorable, but equal praise must be heaped on Marianne Jean-Baptiste for her beautifully measured Hortense. In many ways, hers is the hardest part to play as she gets no big shouting scenes and cries much less than everyone else, but her initial
awkwardness with her new family is wonderfully moving. Timothy Spall as a wedding photographer also stands out in another of his understated put-upon male roles. But it would be impossible to pick out a best performance as you never once doubt the reality of the people you are seeing on screen.
Leigh uses enigma brilliantly from the start ('who's died?', for instance, in the very first shot!) and emphasises throughout the theme of looking and seeing (Hortense as an optometrist; Spall as a photographer).Read more ›
Secrets and Lies is also a classic Leigh film, but definitely not a short, it surprised me how long this film was, British movies are usually very economical in length. Emotionally draining and uplifting at the same time, Leigh puts in some humorous touches to stop it degenerating into a soap opera and the acting all round is superb. Has some good camera angles like the entire (long) bbq scene shot from two static positions, one a lowish patio based angle, the other facing the house from high up. It gave the film a casual artiness that lifted it out of the ordinary from most British mainstream movies, and you can see why the French liked it so much. What kept it British was the depiction of working class Londoners with their small lives and petty differences and odd little habits, but there is no doubt at all that Mr. Leigh had been studying the unique and intimate art of French film making leading up to this great project. As for the content, this sort of thing is generally made more on the continent too, although Leigh and Loach between them, in their different styles, have made the British now into world class social realist movie makers.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is the first film I've watched twice in a row, despite it was very late night already. True portrayal of British (wherever you live, chances are it's yours or your neighbours)... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
What an amazing film, that has the same impact now as it did on its release nearly 20 years ago. It has the most incredible power, made all the more moving by the way it gradually... Read morePublished 2 months ago by schumann_bg
Bought for Christmas but seen this on TV and wanted to add it to our collection. With such wonderful actors and a brilliant and quite believable storyline this is a great film to... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mrs. C. Callaghan