Mike Leigh Remembers Britain’s TV Renaissance
Before becoming one of England’s most internationally celebrated art-house auteurs, Mike Leigh spent much of his early career honing his blend of stark realist drama and mordant comedy in a series of films directed for television. In the two decades between his first feature, Bleak Moments (1971), and his international breakthrough, Life Is Sweet (1990), he worked primarily for the BBC before taking on the Channel 4 commission that resulted in Meantime (1984), an unsparing depiction of life on the dole in Thatcher’s England. Now regarded as the culmination of his television work, the film won acclaim at the Berlin Film Festival but ultimately reached only a limited audience. On our recently released edition, Leigh chats with rock musician Jarvis Cocker about Meantime and explains how television became a refuge for a generation of directors who emerged between the late sixties and early eighties and found it difficult to get ambitious projects made within the British film industry.