On one of our many walks about town, where people know and approach Jeff Wells of Hollywood-Elsewhere, we bumped into the one and only Owen Gleiberman of EW. He kind of talked a bit about Mike Leigh and why he doesn’t belong to any kind of cult that would have Leigh as its main leader. I had been wondering, therefore, what he was going to think about Cannes’ best offering so far, Mike Leigh’s touching Another Year:
“…when I say that I loved ‘Another Year,’ the Leigh film that just premiered at Cannes, members of the Leigh cult should consider themselves warned: The movie has precious little in the way of shrieking, didactic working-class sanctimony, or cheaply lovable over-the-top gags. What it does have is an overwhelming bittersweet melancholy at the passing of life from middle age into‚Ä¶well, I guess you could call it late middle age, but then you‚Äôd be falling into the self-deception shared by the movie‚Äôs characters, who will do anything to avoid the realization that the cold and nasty word for the condition they‚Äôre heading towards is‚Ä¶old. “
After many years of reading and quoting Gleiberman it was, as my dad would say, a gas to hear him actually speak. Now I hear his voice when I read his reviews. Weird, that. And this is why he gets paid the big bucks:
And what a randomly moving collection of troubled, romantic, confused, world-weary, stubbornly deluded souls they are! The characters, between big gulps of wine, specialize in that scalding English thing, ‚Äútaking the piss‚Äù out of each other, but there‚Äôs no mockery in Leigh‚Äôs view, only grace. At times, the movie is like the Beatles‚Äô ‚ÄúEleanor Rigby‚Äù turned into a startlingly humane comedy. Amid the usual Leigh slew of lived-in performances, one of the actors achieves greatness: Lesley Manville, who plays Sheen and Broadbent‚Äôs most regular, and desperate, Saturday night dinner companion, a fragile, sozzled, enthusiastically needy secretary who has been coyly girlish, and drunk, for so long that she has no idea the loneliness she‚Äôs seeking to escape is of her own devising. The final shot is just her face, staring, as everyone else babbles away at the dinner table, and it‚Äôs one of the most haunting, volumes-speaking final shots in the history of cinema.