| 7.8/10 |
1971 (United Kingdom)
Albert Finney, Les Blair
| Anne Raitt
October 1971 (1971-10) (London Film Festival)
Liz Smith, Anne Raitt, Eric Allan, Joolia Cappleman, Donald Sumpter
Directed by Mike Leigh, Dramas
Bleak Moments is a 1971 British film, the first film of Mike Leigh. It began as a 75-minute stage play in March 1970 at the Open Space Theatre. Leigh and Les Blair had formed their own company, Autumn Productions, and Leigh wanted to make a film of Bleak Moments. He was able to realise that desire when Albert Finney and Michael Medwin's Memorial Films, which had recently made If.... and was about to produce Gumshoe, "delivered the main financial backing, as well as unused spare bits of film rolls."
Bleak Moments Wikipedia
Bleak Moments looks at the 'tortured, semi-articulated anguish' in suburban West Norwood, between Sylvia and her developmentally delayed sister Hilda; Sylvia's friend at work, Pat, a teacher; Peter, Sylvia's reticent prospective boy-friend; and Norman, a 'gormless hippie'.Anne Raitt as Sylvia
Sarah Stephenson as Hilda, Sylvia's sister
Eric Allan as Peter
Joolia Cappleman as Pat
Mike Bradwell as Norman
Donald Sumpter as Norman's friend
Liz Smith as Pat's mother
The critic Michael Coveney (writing in 1996) wrote that "Even though the sound quality is poor and the pace a little on the leisurely side - there is tonal assurance and technical finesse in the presentation of the marvellous performances that proclaims both originality and talent. Sylvia is heard playing Chopin's E-flat Nocturne over the opening credits. The general inability to express inner feelings reinforces a mood of bleak, Slavic despair..[there is a] Chekhovian atmosphere, unrelieved by the sort of cathartic climax that characterises most of Leigh's subsequent work." And Coveney praised Leigh's "poetic sensitivity to what G.K.Chesterton called 'the significance of the unexamined life.' Even the exterior shots have a plaintive, insistent quality, with beautifully composed views of pebbledash houses and garages, of clear roads and tall trees, around West Norwood and Tulse Hill." John Coleman in New Statesman called it, "the most remarkable début by a British director, working on an absurdly low budget and with unknown actors, that I have ever seen." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun Times : "Bleak Moments is a masterpiece, plain and simple... its greatness is not just in the direction or subject, but in the complete singularity of the performances." Tony Garnett, the innovative and radical producer, admired the stage performance and was impressed with the subsequent film. He 'spotted Leigh's potential immediately' and his support would prove invaluable. Garnett was providing several films a year for the BBC, and would also produce Leigh's next project, Hard Labour, for BBC Television in 1973.
Bleak Moments has been released in 4:3 aspect ratio several times in the UK: VHS (BFI/Connoisseur Video, 2000), DVD (Soda Pictures, 2008, 2015), and as part of The Mike Leigh Film Collection box set (Spirit Entertainment Ltd, 2008). It has also seen US release by Water Bearer Films, Inc. on VHS (1998), DVD (2004), and in their Mike Leigh Collection, Vol. 2 box set (2004).