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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 2.0 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New audio commentary featuring director Mike Leigh
  • Audio recording of a 1991 interview with Leigh at the National Film Theatre in London
  • More!

Life Is Sweet

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Mike Leigh
Starring: Alison Steadman, Jim Broadbent, Claire Skinner, Jane Horrocks, Timothy Spall, Stephen Rea, David Thewlis
1990 | 103 Minutes | Licensor: Film4

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #659
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: May 28, 2013
Review Date: May 26, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

This moving film from Mike Leigh is an intimate, invigorating, and amusing portrait of a working-class family in a suburb just north of London-an irrepressible mum and dad (Alison Steadman and Jim Broadbent) and their night-and-day twins, a bookish good girl and a sneering layabout (Claire Skinner and Jane Horrocks). In it, Leigh and his typically brilliant cast create, with extra≠ordinary sensitivity and craft, a vivid, lived-in story of ordinary existence, in which even modest dreams (such as the father's desire to open a food truck) carry enormous weight. Perched on the line between humor and melancholy, Life Is Sweet is captivating, and it was Leigh's first international sensation.

Forum members rate this film 8.5/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Mike Leighís Life Is Sweet makes its debut on disc in North America from Criterion, having only been available on VHS previously. Their new Blu-ray presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc with a new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer.

As with other films licenced from Film4 for Blu-ray (Shallow Grave and Leighís Naked) itís another exceptional presentation. Itís a bright, colourful film, brilliantly brought to life on this disc. Colours are saturated perfectly, bright, and vivid. Black levels are deep and shadow delineation is excellent. The image is highly detailed, never going soft, and edges are cleanly defined without any edge enhancement present. The digital transfer delivers a clean image, rendering the filmís grain nicely, never looking like noise.

The print is in excellent shape, and I donít recall a single instance of damage. In all itís an incredibly clean, natural looking presentation, and one of the more impressive ones Iíve seen recently.

10/10

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AUDIO

The disc delivers a simple but effective DTS-HD MA 2.0 surround track. After a rather active and loud opening, which fills the sound field, it settles down. Dialogue and sound effects, which stick primarily to the fronts, both sound clean and natural, with excellent range and fidelity, as does the filmís wonderful score, which fills out the environment nicely. Itís not showy at all but itís a delightful presentation.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The disc has a few lengthy supplements starting with an audio commentary recorded for Criterion by director Mike Leigh. Itís a pleasant track with the director recalling the making of the film and his collaborations with the actors. Though there was a general script a lot of the film was improvised, many things made up on the spot based around the settings or props. Itís actually quite impressive the amount of detail they got into: Leigh recalls that both Spall and Broadbent studied the culinary arts to get ready for their roles, and when going over the menu Spallís character came up with, which is beyond ridiculous, they actually made sure that the menu was feasible by having Spall try the recipes out. Anything not feasible or just terrible was taken out. He expands on the details of some characters, and laughs about some of the dated elements (portable televisions) but delivers a wonderful commentary, even if he quiets down substantially in the latter half. (As a side note I was a bit amused at my own annoyance when Leigh incorrectly points out what is a ďMasters of the UniverseĒ toy as a ďStar WarsĒ toy. How dare he confuse the two!)

Following this is a one-hour audio interview with Leigh from 1991 taken at the National Film Theater. The interview, which was recorded in front of an audience after a screening of Life Is Sweet, features the director talking the film, covering its themes, its production design, its characters, and more. He also talks about his films and style as a whole. He takes questions from the audience as well, and answers as best he can. A lot of this is repeated in the commentary so itís not a necessary feature to listen to, but itís still a decent inclusion, the added benefit of the director taking some questions from the audience, even if heís not sure how to answer them. The audio plays over a simple background that I believe is supposed to represent the wallpaper in the household of the feature film.

Criterion then includes 5 Five Minute Films, which, as Leigh explains in the 3-minute audio introduction (playing over the same background as the previous featureís,) were the remnants of a project from 1975 that never really took off. The general idea was that Leigh would make a series of 5-minute films for the BBC to be shown on television, which would all be self-contained films. He felt television fragmented what it delivered so he wanted to see if he could deliver full stories in the short fragments. The BBC apparently loved the idea and let him create five shorts as a test, but Leigh dropped out after the BBC wanted to actually have multiple directors work on the series, which was not what Leigh intended. Criterion presents the five shorts here, all ranging about five-and-half-minutes each. The filmís included are Probation, the charming The Birth of the Goalie of the 2001 F.A. Cup Final, Old Chums, A Light Snack, and Afternoon. Theyíre all rather good, managing to convey a lot in their short time frames and are a wonderful inclusion on this set. (Richard Griffiths makes a brief appearance in A Light Snack.)

David Sterritt then closes off the release with an essay on the film and Leighís presentation of people in his films. The essay is of course found in the booklet.

Overall it doesnít look like much and the supplements do feel a bit light maybe, but they are are all fairly lengthy and excellent in quality.

7/10

CLOSING

A few strong supplements and a rather amazing looking transfer make this release a must. It comes with a high recommendation.


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