Director: Mike Leigh
Year Released: 1999
I had a feeling this day would come: a day in which I saw a film by British director Mike Leigh and I wouldn't like it. This is nothing against the man: he's one of the finest filmmakers alive, and if I could have just half of his talent I'd consider myself lucky. His previous efforts, Career Girls and the masterpieces Naked and Secrets & Lies were all entertaining and thought-provoking and well-acted and well-scripted and ... I could go on and on about them. But with this effort there isn't much to go on about: the whole thing is rather flat. It's the story of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan - two artists from late 19th century London who put on quirky operas, with Gilbert doing the lyrics and plot and Sullivan providing the orchestral score. But other than that fact, and that Sullivan was apparently in ill-health (he had problems with his kidneys, I believe), there really isn't much to say about either of them. It focuses on Gilbert conceiving of his opera The Mikado based on a Japanese festival he attended with his wife, and then shows how he went about transforming it from idea to script to actual opera. Sullivan, his ailing partner, kind-of "drops out" of the picture, as Leigh isn't sure how to include him in the 'story' (what there is of one). All this goes on for almost three long, slow hours, and my patience was tested many a time: I never had the feeling that Leigh knew where he was going with his story, or what to do with the characters. Many of them are undeveloped or one-dimensional (the actors all have ego problems, what a shock) and at the end of the movie I didn't feel I knew any of them better than when I started (except perhaps that Sullivan was into "bawdy" entertainment and that straight-laced Gilbert has his emotions too in-check).