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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Leigh hits out at UK film industry
Alison Garland, Lesley Manville,  Mike Leigh, Sally Hawkins and Timothy Spall
Mike Leigh poses with his cast
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By Helen Bushby
BBC News Online, Cannes
Director Mike Leigh has hit out at the UK film industry, saying it would do better at the Cannes film festival if it made more "serious and indigenous" films rather than trying to "ape something commercial".

Leigh, whose film All or Nothing starring Timothy Spall was screened at Cannes on Friday, criticised "pseudo-genre" films in the UK, adding that he was in a minority of people "fortunate enough to make films I believe in".

Thank God for Mike and people who do struggle on

Timothy Spall
All or Nothing is one of three movies in competition at Cannes by British film-makers, the other two being by seasoned directors Ken Loach and Michael Winterbottom.

Last year there were no British films in competition and so this year, Leigh and Loach, who are immensely popular in Europe, will be guaranteed a warm reception.

Leigh is famed for his honest and sometimes humorous portrayal of British society, although All or Nothing is a largely bleak depiction of life on a London housing estate.

'Life's pageant'

Leigh said he was able to focus on "ordinary people's lives" because "I haven't somehow fallen into some swimming pool in LA and forgotten about what I once cared about as a film-maker.

There is no single way to make a film and audiences and directors are diverse

Film Council spokeswoman
"I still live in the world and I still care about it. I travel in the tube every day and it's a feast of possible movies, reflecting life's pageant and tapestry."

Asked if he would ever go to Hollywood to make a movie, he decisively answered: "No."

The Film Council, the UK's grant-awarding body for film-makers, is currently in Cannes for the festival.

Its spokeswoman told BBC News Online she could not disagree with Leigh's comments, describing him as a "well-respected and very intelligent film-maker".

But she added that French film culture favoured auteurs such as Leigh and Loach, and that as there were not many other film-makers like them in the UK, it was inevitable that Britain would have mixed fortunes at Cannes.

'Easy trap'

Mike Leigh and Sally Hawkins
Leigh and All Or Nothing star Sally Hawkins
"But there are many ways of making films - there is no single way to make a film and audiences and directors are diverse and we need films to suit many tastes," she said.

The director's comments were echoed by Spall, who added that it was an "easy trap" for British filmmakers to fall into to "always look to the film being attractive across the Atlantic".

Spall, who has worked with Leigh several times before, said if British filmmakers "try to cut their cloth to suit North American tastes, you dilute what you're saying".

"Thank God for Mike and people who do struggle on - it's taken him a long time to get into the international sector," he added.

Loveless relationship

All or Nothing follows the lives of taxi-driver Phil, played by Spall and his wife Penny, played by Lelsey Manville and their two overweight, unhappy children.

Their lives become intertwined with their neighbours' when Phil's son Rory has a heart attack outside their flats. The crisis forces Phil and Penny to look at their loveless relationship and the effect it is having on the family.

Leigh's 1996 film Secrets and Lies won the Palme D'Or at Cannes and was also up for five Oscars the following year, although it did not win any.

But he did win two Academy Awards for costume design and make-up in 2000 for Topsy Turvey, about the lives of Gilbert and Sullivan.

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