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Life Is Sweet(1990)
Family life with Andy, a professional chef who buys a decrepit hamburger van, his wife Wendy, a part-time waitress, and their daughters Nicola, sex and Marx-obsessed and a secret bullimic, and Natalie, an apprentice plumber who rejects gender stereotyping and dreams of escaping to America.
For more about Life Is Sweet and the Life Is Sweet Blu-ray release, see Life Is Sweet Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 25, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Claire Skinner (I), Alison Steadman, Jane Horrocks, Stephen Rea, Timothy Spall
Director: Mike Leigh (I)
» See full cast & crew
Life Is Sweet Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 25, 2013
Mike Leigh's "Life Is Sweet" (1990) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an exclusive new audio commentary with the British director; collection of short films written and directed by Mike Leigh for a proposed BBC television series; and Q&A session recorded at the Nation Film Theatre at the British Film Institute. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring David Sterritt's essay "Life Is Bitter-Sweet". In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Mike Leigh's Life Is Sweet tiptoes the fine line that separates comedy and drama. At times the film is irresistibly funny, especially when the main characters in it question and confront each other, but other times it is seriously depressing. It is the type of film which some people would want to see only once because it perfectly sums up their lives - and these lives are anything but sweet.
The film follows closely a working-class family in a suburb somewhere in the north of London. Around these parts people have low-paying jobs, drive old cars and spend plenty of time dreaming. But Andy (Jim Broadbent, Iris, Moulin Rouge!) and Wendy (Alison Steadman, Topsy-Turvy) have stopped dreaming – they have created the family they wanted and are pleased with what they have. Occasionally they struggle, but together they always find a way to keep the family afloat.
Andy and Wendy's twins, however, are not pleased with what they have. The quiet Natalie (Claire Skinner, Naked) wants to travel and see the world. She also would not mind having a boyfriend, but not one as kooky as her sister's lover (David Thewlis, Mr. Nice). The perpetually angry Nicola (Jane Horrocks, Memphis Belle) just wants to be a different person - with a different body, with a different family, living a different life in a different country. Despite her parents insisting otherwise, Nicola is convinced that she was a mistake that should have never happened, which is why she no longer likes to eat.
Often visiting the family is Aubrey (Timothy Spall, The Damned United, The Sheltering Sky), an ambitious loner who plans to open a chic French bistro in the neighborhood. His menu will include tripe souffle, kidney vol-au-vent, chilled brains, pork cyst, and duck in chocolate sauce.
Shortly after Aubrey opens his bistro, Andy breaks his ankle, Natalie announces that she is going on vacation to America, and Nicola begins to suspect that her parents may actually like her.
Mike Leigh's Life Is Sweet is a strikingly real film. The main characters in it look and most of the time act like people we all know. They are imperfect, vulnerable and naïve individuals whose lives follow a predictable route.
The charm of the film comes from the sense of freedom it exudes. At times it feels like a documentary feature – after Leigh introduces the main characters he simply steps back and begins observing their daily triumphs and failures. Their casualness is the film's greatest strength.
A few of the obviously improvised sequences, however, are disappointingly melodramatic. The worst ones are with Spall's loner, whose cartoonish behavior pushes the film into an entirely new territory. Balance is quickly restored when he disappears, but the over-the-top acting is indeed quite disappointing.
The film looks appropriately raw and unpretentious. There are no fancy camera zooms, quick cuts or jumps. But the camera isn't static either – it follows closely but carefully the protagonists it is most interested in observing. The film was lensed by Leigh's longtime cinematographer, Dick Pope (Secrets & Lies, Topsy-Turvy).
The lovely soundtrack for Life Is Sweet was composed by Rachel Portman (Benny & Joon, Chocolat).
Note: In 1992, Life Is Sweet won ALFS Award for British Film of the Year at the London Critics Circle Film Awards.
Life Is Sweet Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Mike Leigh's Life Is Sweet arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"Supervised by director of photography Dick Pope, this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, and jitter were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise reduction, and flicker.
Telecine supervisor: Dick Pope, Lee Kline.
Colorist: Stephen Bearman/Deluxe Digital London."
I did not see anything in the presentation that I did not like. From start to finish detail and image depth are outstanding, while clarity is always pleasing. Most close-ups look very sharp and vibrant, even in sequences where light is clearly restricted (see sceencapture #2). Furthermore, there is a wide range of warm but very natural colors. There are absolutely no traces of problematic degraining corrections. Post-production sharpening corrections have not been applied either. Unsurprisingly, the film has a very stable and very convincing organic look. Finally, there are absolutely no damage marks, debris, specs, or warps to report in this review. To sum it up, I think that all fans of Life Is Sweet, as well as director Mike Leigh, are guaranteed to be impressed with the manner in which the film has transitioned to Blu-ray. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Life Is Sweet Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The audio has excellent depth and crispness. Overall dynamic movement is somewhat limited, but this has everything to do with the film's original sound design. The dialog is very crisp, well rounded, stable, and free of problematic hiss. Additionally, there are absolutely no pops, cracks, audio dropouts or high-frequency distortions to report in this review.
Life Is Sweet Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Life Is Sweet Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Mike Leigh's first international hit, Life Is Sweet, is also his most optimistic film. I like it, but I prefer his later films. They are darker, a lot more intense, and have characters that get under your skin. I think that Leigh is at his best when he is slightly angry and his films show it. Criterion's presentation of Life is Sweet is outstanding. The film has been given a brand new transfer and it clearly looks the best it ever has. RECOMMENDED.
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