Mike Leigh at the BBC (2 Entertain): Priced at nearly £60 this box set of Mike Leigh’s early films at the BBC might seem an expensive luxury but, if you can afford it, is actually an excellent insight into a hugely significant part of his career.
Spanning nearly 30 years this collection showcases all of the writer-director’s surviving work from the BBC, including his contributions to the influential Play For Today series.
For the first time on DVD, this includes seven of his early films (some with new director’s commentaries) as well as two TV studio plays and five engaging short films.
Everything has been restored, and there is a raft of insightful extras.
A six-disc set, the films and features are:
- Hard Labour: Mike Leigh’s first TV drama for the BBC in 1973, which was shot entirely on location in his native Salford. It depicts the grinding daily routine of stoical domestic cleaner Mrs Thornley and her cantankerous family. It features Liz Smith (The Royle Family) and early appearances by Ben Kingsley, Bernard Hill and Alison Steadman.
- The Permissive Society: A short play, shot entirely in a television studio, about an awkward first date in a Lancashire high rise flat which is interrupted by the young man’s elder sister, returning prematurely after being stood up.
- Nuts in May: Leigh’s second Play For Today offering about a self-righteous vegetarian couple (Roger Sloman and Alison Steadman), on a camping holiday in Dorset, who’s rigid assumptions are challenged by other campers.
- The Kiss of Death: David Threlfall stars as an off-beat undertaker’s assistant, with a dry sense of humour and a healthy resistance to conformity. He and his best friend Ronnie are confronted by, and finally escape, the clutches of two predatory and fiercely conventional young women, Sandra and Linda. Filmed on location in Oldham.
- Who’s Who?: A film about toffs and snobs with Richard Kane as Alan, an obsequious autograph hunter, who works as a clerk for a City stockbroker, and whose wife breeds pedigree chinchilla cats.
- Abigail’s Party: Immediately after its smash-hit run at The Hampstead Theatre in London, this 1977 stage-play was staged for TVand became his most popular work to date up to that point. It explores a suburban evening of hilarious disaster, gross embarrassment and untimely death is presided over by the monstrous Beverly, for which performance Alison Steadman won two best actress awards.
- Grown-Ups: A young working-class couple, Dick and Mandy, move into a council house, to find their old teacher living next door with his wife. Starring Lesley Manville (All Or Nothing, Topsy-Turvy, Cranford) who has worked with Mike Leigh more than any other actor and Brenda Blethyn (Secrets and Lies), Phil Davis, Sam Kelly, Janine Duvitski (Abigail’s Party) and Lindsay Duncan. Filmed on location in Canterbury.
- Home Sweet Home: The tragic-comic tale of a lonely postman, the social workers who chivvy him about his estranged teenage daughter, and his secret affairs with the wives of his fellow postmen. It stars Eric Richard (The Bill) and features Frances Barber (Funland). It was also the first appearance in a Mike Leigh film of Timothy Spall (Secrets and Lies, All Or Nothing). Filmed on location in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.
- Four Days in July: A bitterly humorous take on “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. Set (and shot) in Belfast in July 1984, around the annual 12th July Loyalist Parades, the film examines the communities on both sides of the divide. The cast includes Stephen Rea (The Crying Game) and Bríd Brennan (Dancing At Lughnasa)
- Five-Minute Films: This collection also includes a rare treat, five short films written and directed by Mike Leigh – Afternoon, Birth of the Goalie, Old Chums, A Light Snack and Probation. Originally filmed in 1975, these five films, lasting five minutes each, were intended to be the first in an ongoing series but weren’t actually broadcast until 1982 during a season of Leigh’s work on BBC.
- Documentary, “All About Abigail’s Party”, plus “Welcome”, “Party Nibbles”, “Intro” & “Goodbye”
- The Conversation: Will Self interviews Mike Leigh
- The Long Goodbye: Bel Mooney interviews Mike Leigh
- Arena: Making Plays: the life and work of Mike Leigh
- Audio commentary by Mike Leigh available on Nuts in May,The Kiss of Death, Grown-Ups, Four Days in July
The Silence of Lorna (New Wave Films): The latest film from the Belgian brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, who have been a regular fixture at Cannes in the last decade with their contemporary takes on modern European life.
Their new film sees Kosovar actress Arta Dobroshi play Lorna, a young Albanian living in Belgium, who becomes an accomplice to a local mobster’s plan.
- Interview with Arta Dobroshi
- Interview with the Dardenne Brothers
- Theatrical Trailer
Body Armour (Momentum)
Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo (Second Sight)
Breakdance: The Movie (Second Sight)
Criminal Minds Season 3 (Disney)
Demons Season 1 (Sony)
Electric Dreams (Second Sight)
Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special (2 Entertain)
Ghost Whisperer Season 3 (Disney)
Gossip Girl Season 2 Volume 1 (Warner)
Hansel & Gretel (Terracotta Distribution)
Mad Money (Lionsgate)
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (Paramount)
Quicksand (Glass Key)
Skins Series 3 (4DVD)
The High Life (2 Entertain)
The Signal (Optimum)
The Tale of Despereaux (Universal)
Twilight (E-1 Films)
Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter (Paramount)
Woman on the Run (Glass Key)
Tis Autumn, The Search for Jackie Paris (Drakes Avenue Pictures)
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