David Leland is part of a generation of British filmmaker
s who owe a large part of their careers to the foundation of Channel Four
. From the beginning, the British television channel
showed its commitment to establish a British film industry to produce small-scale films that could be show both on cinema
and on television
in its Film on Four
He began his career as an actor and later writing for television, but soon moved into cinema as a screenwriter and director, not always directing his own material.
His first contribution of note was as the writer of Alan Clarke's tough and controversial football hooligan drama Made In Britain (1982) for the BBC, which starred Tim Roth in a very early role. Earlier, he had worked for Alan Clarke writing Beloved Enemy (1981), based on the case of the spy George Blake.
However his real success came in the mid-1980s, writing Mona Lisa (1986) and Personal Services (1987), and writing and directing Wish You Were Here (1987). ]Mona Lisa], a crime thriller which he co-wrote with The Crying Game director Neil Jordan is probably the finest film either has been involved in. The screenplay is rich with imagery, twists and sudden shocks, and the resulting film was excellently directed and acted.
Personal Services, a comedy directed by Monty Python man Terry Jones, is based on the career of real-life brothel madam Cynthia Payne, portrayed as "Christine Painter" by Julie Walters. Payne was also the inspiration for Wish You Were Here. This film, his directorial debut, is a slight but likeable film. It tells of the adventures of a free-spirited teenager (best known for her catch-phrase "Up yer bum!"), played by Emily Watson and based on Cynthia Payne's own childhood, growing up in a windswept English seaside town.
He followed these up by directing Joe Esterhas's script for Checking Out, a dark comedy starring Jeff Daniels in 1989. In 1990, he directed Big Man, a drama about bare-knuckle boxing starring Liam Neeson and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, now Joanne Whalley, and based on a novel by Scottish crime novelist William McIlvanney. Although Leland did not write the film, but only directs, it is a powerful piece with good performances, tough fight scenes and Ennio Morricone music. More recently, he helmed The Land Girls, a drama about British women working on farms during World War II. The critical reception was lukewarm. He also co-wrote Running Wild with J. G. Ballard, and directed the film himself.
Leland has shown himself a versatile, if somewhat impersonal, talent. Although few of his films are classics, most are watchable: the comedies are likeable, and the dramas often exciting and brutal.
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