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Ethics at the Cinema$
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Ward E. Jones and Samantha Vice

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195320398

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320398.001.0001

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The Secrets and Lies of Film

The Secrets and Lies of Film

(p.23) 1 The Secrets and Lies of Film
Ethics at the Cinema

Andrew Gleeson

Oxford University Press

In Mike Leigh’s 1996 film Secrets and Lies a black woman seeking her birth mother enters a white family, and shatters its walls of illusion. The family, and the audience, confront the questions of what distinguishes true from false marital and familial love. The film exhibits these distinctions in a thoughtful way, rather than preaching or arguing about them. It creates an object of enlightening contemplation rather than fuelling a sugar rush of feeling by violent sensory stimulation. This is what distinguishes art from propaganda or advertising. But film’s sheer sensory power makes it uniquely susceptible, among the arts, for perversion in the latter ways. So ironically, artistically serious film must exercise an almost anti-filmic restraint. The temptation to overwhelm the critical faculties of its audience, to pander to its prejudices or desire to be ‘thrilled’, must be resisted.

Keywords:   Secrets and Lies, Mike Leigh, film, realism, senses, art, falsification

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