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Friday, October 03, 2008

Mike Leigh: Secrets and Lies

In the first significant scene of SECRETS AND LIES, after he's introduced his characters in montage, Mike leigh takes us to an office and the lead character Hortense Cumberbatch is inquiring about an event in her past that Leigh takes most of the ongoing conversation to unveil. Through staggered speech, broken dialogue and interruptions we are left hanging without knowing the subject of their discussion. It is as if a secret or a lie is desperately but slowly coming out.

Just within the scene Leigh masterfully writes into this dialogue all the trappings of the central conflict of his film. And method of conceal and reveal is repetitive throughout the film, allowing us to witness the masked and emotionally veiled social taboos work on our psyche and persona.

Later in the film, when Hortense meets Cynthia's family for the first time, there is a back garden BBQ scene. A set shot done all in one take, it is amazing to watch for all the intricacies and the layers of veiled storytelling and inquiry. Gradually, details like the future son-in-law having his license removed, Hortense not being a co-worker at a factory, her degree from University, all leading to an unraveling of veils of secrets and deceptions -- Leigh is masterful in his peeling away of the story as it unfolds.

Of all the Leigh films you must see, SECRETS AND LIES and VERA DRAKE should be at the top of your list. They are classics of independent filmmaking.

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