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  Within the last year (I believe) the New Yorker had a rather long profile
of Mike Leigh.  Apparently he has done another half dozen or so projects
for the BBC which did not receive theatrical distribution (nor broadcast)
here.  I also seem to remember that he often starts from an idea and
develops it through improvisations which are later scripted and then
filmed.
  On the ML topic:  one of the most interesting  aspects of his work,
I think, is the enormously variegated tone.  In High Hopes this is
visible in the contrast amongst the four main stories:  the bleak
tale of the ailing mother, the parodic skewering of the Thatcherite
period yuppie neighbors, the muted tone of the main couple, and the
sheer hysteria of the messenger's sister and her abominable marriage.
In Life Is Sweet, the hysteria and hyperbole seems confined to the
restaurant narrative, although the mother's over-the-top chipperness
also seems quite exaggerated, but this is punctured by the shattering
scene with her bulimic daughter where the daughter learns of how much
she has affected her mother.
  In all I find Leigh's films quite affecting and absolutely unique in
style.
Edward R. O'Neill, UCLA