A portrayal of the events surrounding the infamous 1819 Peterloo Massacre, where a peaceful pro-democracy rally in Manchester turned into one of the bloodiest and most notorious episodes in British history. Many protestors were killed and hundreds more injured, sparking a nationwide outcry.
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Politicized language gives Peterloo epic stature — it’s a brilliant filmmaker’s version of the Tower of Babel noise in Armando Iannucci’s aggravating, TV-style The Death of Stalin. These characters convey the intellectual and emotional engine behind political movements.
I wish the long-gestating dream had resulted in a better film. I don’t want to read too much into things that I only know second or third hand, but in a sense “Peterloo” shows the pitfalls of the dream project.
Every so often, someone will remark that the time for talk is past, that what is needed now is action. But part of the argument of this brilliant and demanding film is that words are deeds, that language matters.
An epic by.... Mike Leigh? I would not believe it either until the sympathies with class present themselves and then you realize that despite the grandiosity of the crowd scenes (great seeing it on the big screen) the humans element is not lost in the shuffle at all! One of the best films of the year that was sadly not widely distributed.
I understand the polarization. But for me, this was an incredible film and the way historical political films should be made- an evocation of the present without directly referencing it. Mike Leigh realizes that the poor have always been treated like shit and until there is true leftist policies and equality, we must be angry and stand up to the bourgeois authority!
A big but diffuse canvas that paints a picture of injustice, but is marred by crude intervention of caricature. To stretch the analogy: it’s portrait by spatula not fine brush. Here everyone is a type: the poor are poor and the rich are rich - and wicked. Everyone representative of their class with motivation a even poorer second. It’s all foreground not back; maybe a pen portrait might have rendered more heart.
By chance I watched this almost back-to-back with Citizenfour, by Laura Poitras. What a tragedy it is that they have so much in common. Obviously two filmmakers with a finger on the pulse of bedrock truth.
The dialogues, speeches, and ideas repeat to the point of making the progression of the film a burden. This is the type of film where no one in the cast really stands out, while Leigh’s linear narrative wasn’t particularly attractive this time.
My politics are very similar but caricatured depictions for binary oppositions of rich and poor unwittingly does a disservice to the cause. Imperialism often happens in subtext rather than with such on-the-nose dialogue.
The usual complaint about Leigh is that he is a soy latte Socialist, all style and no commitment to real issues. So when he makes a social realist film in the classic mold, he suddenly is "didactic", "cartoonish" and not artsy enough. Except this is his most stylized work, being a grand commentary on the present state of things, where a political elite fabricates a parallel reality to justify its own amoral rule.
3.6 stars. Yes, it's a men talking in rooms (and sometimes on the moors!) film, but it still knocks spots off the likes of 'Lincoln' in terms of individualizing the mass and making common people seem imbued with an essential humanity, which has always been one of the strengths of Leigh's film-making. This doesn't stop early 19th century speeches from being early 19th century speeches, but the effect is moving.