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Ray Carney's The Films of Mike Leigh is quite simply the best book of film criticism I have ever read.

Now I have to say that I have never read any of Carney's other books (he has also written books on Cassavetes, Frank Capra, and Carl Dreyer), which, for all I know, might be even better. But as a friend of mine put it, 'His writing blows everything else out there away, even to the point of many times seeming like simply in a class of his own...different in kind more than degree.' And although I admit to not having read 'everything else out there,' I feel the exact same way. Ray Carney's new book has undeniably rocked my world.

Ray Carney's book is to what usually passes for film criticism what Mike Leigh's movies are to what, in Hollywood, usually passes for filmmaking: a truly radical critique, a whole different animal, and a solitary voice of sanity that has somehow miraculously managed to make itself heard over the noise and hullabaloo of this culture's present-day insanity.

 

--Caveh Zahedi, creator of A Little Stiff and I Don't Hate Las Vegas Anymore,
in a review in Filmmaker Magazine

Ray Carney, The Films of Mike Leigh: Embracing the World (New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 13 illustrations, paperback, 290 pages. This book is available directly from the author for $20.

Mike Leigh is a maverick British independent who, for nearly 30 years, has been producing eccentric, unique, and almost uncategorizable works. Though his career dates back to 1971, with a film called Bleak Moments, Leigh has worked in obscurity for most of that time, coming to the attention of an international audience only with his recent productions of Naked, Secrets and Lies, Career Girls, and Topsy Turvy.

Working in a similar way to that of Robert Altman, John Cassavetes, and Tom Noonan, Leigh begins with a small group of actors around whom he builds his films during months of private rehearsal. There is no script at the start. It is written as he goes along.

The films--which include Abigailís Party, Meantime, Home Sweet Home, High Hopes, and Life is Sweet--are brilliant, outrageous, iconoclastic--and hilarious. Leigh's work has been both ridiculed by some and celebrated by others as among the greatest filmmaking of the twentieth century.

This study argues, among other things, that part of the misunderstanding of Leigh's work has been the result of misclassifying him as a British "realist" in the tradition of Osborne and Loach, when in fact his films are far stranger and more artistically daring. The Films of Mike Leigh: Embracing the World makes the case for regarding Leigh as one of the great artists of the century.

This is the first comprehensive critical appreciation of Leigh's work ever written, and it offers insights not only into this unusual filmmaker's strange and often baffling movies, but into film itself as a way of knowing and understanding the world. This book offers nothing less than a radically new way of understanding both life and art.

* * *

This book is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your local bookseller, or, for a limited time, directly from the author (in discounted and specially autographed editions). Advance copies may be ordered now. If you order prior to publication, your "first edition" copy will be mailed to you the day the book becomes available (and before it is generally available in bookstores).

To obtain a copy directly from the author (please stipulate if you would like an inscription or autograph on the inside front cover), please send $20 (US Postal Money Order only) with your name and address, and the title of the book you are ordering, to the following address. (Domestic US orders only.)

Ray Carney
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Boston University
Boston, MA 02215

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© Text Copyright 2003 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.