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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Life is Sweet [Blu-ray]


(Mike Leigh, 1990)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Channel Four Films

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #659



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:43:38.253

Disc Size: 43,004,605,815 bytes

Feature Size: 30,493,747,200 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps

Chapters: 17

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 28th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 2032 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2032 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps



English (SDH), none



• New audio commentary featuring director Mike Leigh
Audio recording of a 1991 interview with Leigh at the National Film Theatre in London (1:00:56)
Five short films written and directed by Leigh for the proposed television series Five-Minute Films, with a new audio introduction (3:03) by Leigh (27:48)
Plus: A booklet featuring an essay by critic David Sterritt





Description: This invigorating film from Mike Leigh was his first international sensation. Melancholy and funny by turns, it is an intimate 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 troubled, ill-tempered layabout (Claire Skinner and Jane Horrocks). Leigh and his typically brilliant cast create, with extraordinary 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.



The Film:

Mike Leigh's situation comedy about a lower middle-class family in the London suburbs is a slice-of-life chronicle that subtly reveals the pain and rage underneath the surface of day-to-day conventions. The youngish parents, Wendy (Alison Steadman) and Andy (Jim Broadbent) live with their 20-something twin daughters, Nicola (Jane Horrocks) and Natalie (Claire Skinner). Natalie, a plumber's assistant, is clean-cut and forever looks on the bright side of life. Nicola, who is unemployed, has nothing but contempt for conventionality. As the daughters deal with the obsessively sunny Wendy and the lackadaisical Andy, and confront a succession of ne'er-do-well friends and neighbors, a darker picture is painted of this normal family -- particularly Nicola, who is convinced she is fat and ugly (despite her emaciated appearance), with Natalie being a constant rebuke to her.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

A splendid follow-up to High Hopes, in which Leigh's improvisational method achieves symmetry in the form of two very different chefs and twin daughters who are very different from their indomitably normal parents. Andy (Broadbent), is a good-natured cook with an ambition to run his own business from a disgusting mobile snack-bar flogged to him by a drunken mate (Rea); Aubrey (Spall) is a clueless fatty with a desire to be supercool, mastermind of a disastrous venture to bring gourmet cooking to Enfield. Offering such hideous fare as liver in lager and duck in chocolate sauce, Aubrey ropes in Andy's innuendo-prone wife Wendy (Steadman) as a replacement waitress. While the restaurant opening provides narrative focus, Leigh divides his interest between this and the plight of Andy and Wendy's teenage daughters, one (Skinner) a tomboy plumber, the other (Horrocks) an antisocial anorexic whose only enthusiasms are bulimic binges and casual sex with the aid of a jar of peanut butter. Despite two performances of insufficient conviction (Spall and Horrocks), the film is magnificent, mixing enormous fun with sad, serious subjects: the enterprise rip-off, adolescent despair, parents' lost dreams for their children, role-playing, the gutsy optimism of decent, ordinary humanity (represented by Broadbent and Steadman in two stunningly unflashy performances).

Excerpt from TimeOut Fiolm Guide located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Life is Sweet looks very strong on Blu-ray from Criterion.  Detail in close-ups is strong and most colors, and contrast, appear tight and pleasing.  This is dual-layered with a high bitrate and we can guess that it is a solid representation of the film. It is advertised as a "New, restored 2K digital film transfer, supervised by director of photography Dick Pope". It is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the image in-motion is impressive. They are frequent examples of depth. This Blu-ray has no discernable flaws and supplies a wonderful 1080P presentation. Thumbs up!

NOTE: I see there is a UK Blu-ray release of this film and we will compare one day if we have the opportunity.















Audio :

Criterion utilize a DTS-HD Master in 2.0 channel stereo at 2032 kbps. There aren't a lot of aggressive effects but dialogue is clean and clear. The film's original music is composed by Rachel Portman (who has done varied film score from Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher to Polanski's Oliver Twist) and benefits from the lossless rendering with some pleasing crispness. For those not used to the thick accents there are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.


Extras :

Extras include a new audio commentary featuring director Mike Leigh where he talks/reminisces about the film and his motivations for the characters. Informative and worth the listen - as is the hour-long audio recording of a 1991 interview with Leigh at the National Film Theatre in London. It is so interesting to hear the thought processes of someone who is really gifted in his view of humanity. We also get a five short films (see titles below) written and directed by Leigh for the proposed television series Five-Minute Films, with a new 3-minute audio introduction by the director himself. Plus there is a linear notes booklet featuring images and an essay by critic David Sterritt.



I love Mike Leigh films and this reminded me a shade of one of my favorites; Happy-Go-Lucky. As usual - grassroots people with, often, uncommon problems interspersed with some ripping dark humor and observations of England's, less visible, seamy underbelly. The Criterion Blu-ray package offers a great a/v presentation with keen extras including the wonderful commentary. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

April 29th, 2013


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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