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Director Gillies MacKinnon has assembled one of the most impressive bodies of work in recent British cinema. There’s nothing flashy about his films, and he never allows plot to overwhelm character, mood or meaning. His work is marked by its subtlety and integrity and by a desire to take a story or situation and get it right, regardless of convention or commercial cliche.

An almost impressionistic approach to narrative aligns him more closely with Europe film-making than with Hollywood or the British mainstream. Often, his films are as much about a particular time and place as they are about events; he’s acutely aware of texture and tone and astute in expressing emotional, psychological and social nuance. Not that he preaches: his approach is humanist, born of a fascination with people in all their flawed, glorious variety. Moreover, he finds humor in almost any subject, so that his work, at once serious and witty, is invariably marked by a light touch.

MacKinnon is a fine visual stylist who always conceives meaning in terms of imagery: the camera is consistently in the right position to draw our gaze to some small, significant detail; his careful framing and camera movement are unobtrusively eloquent. And he’s expert with actors: while he’s elicited superb performances from Albert Finney, Stephen Rea, Richard Harris and Jonathan Pryce, he’s also worked fruitfully with (at the time) lesser known talents like Ewen Bremner, Mark Rylance, Robin Wright, Brendan Gleeson and Jonny Lee Miller. It’s not so surprising, then, that Kate Winslet chose to follow Titanic with Hideous Kinky rather than some blockbuster, for MacKinnon makes films that satisfy the eyes, the heart, and the mind.

-GEOFF ANDREW (BFI)

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