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Russ

Secrets and Lies / The Wrong Man double feature

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Well, it was a dread of "please don't go there, filmmakers". I'm very pleased they didn't--it would have been too sensationally shocking, but instead it played out in a very realistic and authentic fashion--almost too voyeuristic, at times. I felt like the shop assistant at the final dinner.

Perhaps it is a reflection of one's own famililial relationships--which, I suppose, is why I viewed the whole intimacy between Maurice and Cynthia as unhealthy. I guess I would argue it was unhealthy, but because of such brokenness throughout their difficult shared history, not because of some kind of awful shared abuse.

But that's no judgment of the movie--found it to be very rich, and will need to see it again, now with my sense of dread alleviated.

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Jonathan Rosenbaum has re-posted his review, e.g.:

 

I’ve seen Secrets and Lies three times since it premiered at Cannes in May, and each time the movie’s apparent rough patches have seemed smoother — clear evidence that writer-director Mike Leigh knows exactly what he’s doing and why. But whether his knowledge and a viewer’s recognition of it make this comedy-drama a masterpiece is another matter. Some of my hipper colleagues feel a little suspicious about the film’s mainstream pitch, wondering whether the whole thing finally goes down a bit too easily, given Brenda Blethyn’s quavering histrionics, the upbeat conclusion, the snugness of the whole concept. But I can hardly begrudge a filmmaker as talented as Leigh a way of conveying his gifts to a wider audience; after all, Secrets and Lies doesn’t represent the same sort of coarsening of a filmmaker’s vision as Jane Campion’s The Piano, coming after Sweetie.

 

Nevertheless there has been a discernible change in Leigh’s work since his last dysfunctional-family opus, Life Is Sweet — a change well described by Australian critic Adrian Martin in a recent letter to me: “I think that as a certain angry anti-Thatcher 80s politics has drained from Leigh’s work, he has gravitated to either the bombastic nihilism of Naked (a film I have incredibly mixed feelings about) or the soft-heartedness of Secrets and Lies.” Put somewhat differently, the political anger that first gave way to metaphysical hopelessness in Naked has now been transmuted into a more standard drama about repression and self-deception. These are problems curable by personal means alone, without reference to a wider political context or much recourse to the sort of multilayered psychological ambiguity found in the work of Maurice Pialat or John Cassavetes.

 

In the final analysis, what one thinks of Secrets and Lies depends on the films one compares it to. Set alongside most recent Hollywood pictures it looks like a masterpiece, but considered in relation to the best of Leigh — say, Meantime or Grown-ups or High Hopes – or the best of recent non-Hollywood films, it looks rather thin. The characters lack complexity, and though Secrets and Lies has the sort of actorly assurance one associates with a good night at the English theater, it’s not the kind of show that sticks to one’s ribs. . . .


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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