May 14, 2014 at 2:47 am #153807
Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival , Leigh’s highly anticipated biopic Mr. Turner explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (played by Spall). Profoundly affected by the death of his esteemed father, loved by a housekeeper he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, where he dies. Throughout all this, Turner travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty. Mr. Turner also stars actors Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson Lesley Manville and Tom Wlaschiha.
Director: Mike Leigh
Writer: Mike Leigh
Producer: Georgina Lowe, Danielle Brandon,
U.S. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Cast: Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Julian Seager
Release dates: 15 May 2014 (2014-05-15) (Cannes)
31 October 2014 (2014-10-31) (UK)
19 December 2014 (2014-12-19) (US)
“Mr. Turner” will be the first In Competition film out the gate at the 67th Cannes Film Festival, premiering on Thursday, May 15.May 14, 2014 at 2:57 am #153809
First official clips from Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner:May 14, 2014 at 8:23 am #153810
I’m dying for this, those clips were absolutely beautiful. The landscapes look just like his paintings.May 14, 2014 at 10:13 am #153811
Having seen some of his work in Museums, this could be an interesting watch for me. I had never envisioned Timothy Spall playing him, but since it’s Mike Leigh who imo has never made a stinker, I look forward to this.
But I’m not rooting for a Palme d’Or for this. Not this year.May 14, 2014 at 1:11 pm #153812
Not usually a fan of Leigh or his films but hope for the best for this one.May 14, 2014 at 1:54 pm #153813
Oddly loving what I have seen so far from this film.May 15, 2014 at 3:14 am #153814
First reviews coming through:
Peter Bradshaw from The Gaurdian:
Mr Turner – Cannes review: Timothy Spall snorts up a storm for Mike Leigh Mike Leigh’s first period biopic in 15 years is a dazzling feat of confidence, with an outstanding performance from Timothy Spall who plays JMW Turner as a grunting, vulnerable genius
What a glorious film this is, richly and immediately enjoyable, hitting its satisfying stride straight away. It’s funny and visually immaculate; it combines domestic intimacy with an epic sweep and has a lyrical, mysterious quality that perfumes every scene, whether tragic or comic.
Mike Leigh has made a period biographical drama before — Topsy-Turvy (1999), about the rewarding but tense association of Gilbert and Sullivan and their own rewarding but tense association with the theatre-going public. Now he made another utterly confident excursion into the past and into the occult arcana of Englishness and Victoriana: a study of the final years of the painter JMW Turner, played with relish and sympathy by Timothy Spall.
In the past, I and others have commented that Leigh’s dialogue in his contemporary movies has an exaggerated, vaudevillian, neo-Dickensian quality. Now he has actually made a Dickensian movie — accompanied, perhaps, by a shrewdly distanced critical sensibility with something of Peter Ackroyd. There are wives and daughters and fallen women and poignantly ailing fathers and sea-journeys and huge marshy landscapes, although it is sexually explicit in a way foreign to Dickens. (His Turner is a regular visitor to Margate, not too far from Broadstairs, where Dickens was to be found, but there is no record of a meeting, and none invented fictionally here. He comments, sourly, that Thackeray has taken a dislike to one of his canvases.)
The painter is a harrumphing eccentric, with a handsome establishment in London, who enjoys the freedom that wealth and success has gained him, a freedom to roam, and a freedom to speak his mind to simpering critics and saucer-eyed buyers. He is utterly confident, exchanging badinage with lesser, prissier contemporaries at the Royal Academy, tolerant of an envious failure who begs him for a loan. Turner has the mutton-chops and bulging eyes of a Toby jug, or perhaps like the pig’s head that we see him eating — accepting another slice of cheek, his own being full and wobbly. He grunts and growls with occasional Chewbacca-whinnies; he huffs like a mill-owner, or like one of those steam engines of the Victorian age whose encroaching modernity makes Turner so uncomfortable.
Occasionally, he will spit at the canvas, and mix it up with the paint because his gluey sputum has exactly the consistency he needs: a mannerism which shows off perfectly his forthright, uninhibited, primitive approach — almost a kind of English art brut. But his unconventionally visionary, cloudy canvases are making him a marginal figure in the artistic establishment and a figure of fun for the general public.
Turner is shown to be desperately lonely, needing the company and touch of women — but culpably irresponsible in failing to acknowledge his past liaisons and children. Ruth Sheen plays his ex-lover Sarah Danby, who upbraids him with his indifference to his daughters. Turner prefers to live the life of a bohemian bachelor, sexually exploiting his housekeeper, Hannah (Dorothy Atkinson) and then becoming obsessed with his Margate seaside landlady Mrs Booth (Marion Bailey) for whom he conceives a great, uxorious love. There is a brilliant scene in which Turner engages a prostitute, inspects her semi-nudity and then proceeds to sketch her, bursting into unexplained tears when she artlessly reveals how young she is. Does he just want her for artistic purposes? Is the business of sketching a voyeuristic refinement of sexual pleasure — or is something even more strange going on? As his health declines, Spall’s great bear-like Turner becomes a big, vulnerable toddler, and it is unbearably sad.
Paul Jesson gives a lovely performance as Turner’s beloved elderly widowed father, who is content to live with him as his manservant and factotum, and has relapsed into what Turner shrewdly identifies as the false persona of a “dunce” — despite the fact he taught Turner to read and write. Joshua McGuire is excellent as the supercilious Ruskin, whose affectations Turner cannot help but mock, and whose critical engagement with him he doesn’t understand and which makes him nervous. Leigh’s regular repertory player Lesley Manville makes a engaging contribution as Mary Somerville, a natural philosopher who believes in the magnetic properties of refracted light.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for a movie about an artist is how it is going to look. Cinematographer Dick Pope pulls off some lovely scenes, without ever giving his images a misjudged “painterliness”. There is a brilliant moment when a landscape detail looks like a painted canvas, but the camera pulls back to reveal it is the real thing. And there is a kind of unselfconscious majesty in the sequence in which Leigh imagines Turner actually witnessing the scene which he made the subject of his famous painting: he sees The Fighting Temeraire, a veteran Trafalgar gunship being towed up the Thames on the way to being broken up. It makes what Turner stoutly calls a “marine piece”. The naval and seafaring traditions of Britain are the wellspring of Turner’s imagination, but like Turner and his vision, this tradition, and Victorian Britain are receding into clouds of glory.
Every scene in this film is expertly managed; every comic line and funny moment adroitly presented and every performance given with intelligence and love. It is another triumph for Mike Leigh and for Timothy Spall.May 15, 2014 at 4:06 am #153815
Mr. Turner at Cannes: beautiful, richly observed biopic that has no interest in biopic tropes. Feels like random events adding up to a life.
Jake Howell@Jake_Howell·3 mins
Leigh’s Mr. Turner: obviously very accomplished, yet simultaneously unmoving; immaculate (inspired) mise-en-scene, blocking. #Cannes2014
Timothy Spall does more with a grunt than some actors manage with an entire performance #Cannes2014May 15, 2014 at 4:11 am #153816
Dave Calhoun from TimeOut London:
Twice before, first with ‘Topsy-Turvy’ and then with ‘Vera Drake’, Mike Leigh has punctuated his bittersweet studies of contemporary life with period dramas. Now, with ‘Mr Turner’, the British director of ‘Naked’ and ‘Secrets and Lies’ takes us back to the nineteenth century and the later years of the celebrated, groundbreaking, difficult painter JMW Turner (1775-1851). Sad and joyful, ‘Mr Turner’ offers a wonderfully rich tapestry of experience and digs deeply into a complicated, contradictory life.
Timothy Spall â€“ a veteran of Leigh’s films â€“ plays this eccentric, determined London bohemian like a bronchial, cantankerous, randy old toad with backache. He grunts and grimaces and gropes his way through life. He talks like a market trader after a crash course in the classics. Leigh, meanwhile, explores Turner’s life unburdened by any sense of purpose other than an intense, contagious fascination with this man, his work, his times and, increasingly, the inevitable, slow, irresistible trudge towards death.
We observe Turner’s fondness for his elderly father; his sexual relationship with his meek housekeeper (Dorothy Atkinson); his rejection of his children and their mother; his arms-length acceptance by the lions of the Royal Academy; his late-life relationship with a Margate widow (Marion Bailey); and the mockery of the crowd when his work turns experimental. ‘Vile’ and a ‘yellow mess’ concludes Queen Victoria at an exhibition: the presence of royalty in a Mike Leigh film is just one of its many welcome surprises here. Mortality hangs heavily over â€˜Mr Turnerâ€™, which covers roughly 25 years and is a poetic, brilliantly choreographed patchwork of moments and episodes. The film often has a wistful, regretful air, but alongside sadness sits great joy â€“ there are moments of wicked humour.
All of this is engrossing and evocative, and the sense of time, place and period is unusual and beguiling. But what makes ‘Mr Turner’ doubly fascinating is the mystery at its heart: what defines an artist’s relationship with his or her subject? Can it be explained? Can you trace clear lines between the creator and the work? They’re impossible questions. So what Leigh does is sketch the emotional ties between Turner and the places (and less frequently the people) he paints. He bursts into tears while sketching a young prostitute. He ties himself to the mast of a ship in the rain. He strides across a hilltop ruin as five wild horses gallop past.
Our sense of what inspires Turner as an artist comes less from watching him work (the film is pleasingly light on literal scenes of the artist at his easel) than from a series of astonishing, time-stopping shots of land and sea. The film’s opening sees two women walking along a canal in the Low Countries. Later, we see waves lapping against a beach and cliffs. Leigh and his cinematographer Dick Pope essentially create a series of filmed paintings that celebrate the spirit of Turner’s work, and these reflective, quiet moments have great power.
‘Mr Turner’ is a long-cherished project for Leigh. It’s impossible not to equate the ideas in the film about working and living as an artist as reflections on the filmmaker’s existence â€“ finding time for a personal and family life; negotiating patronage; feeling strongly about the work of contemporaries; tolerating critics intellectualising your work. But if Leigh is in some ways holding up a mirror to himself, that doesn’t distract from the larger mirror he holds up to Turner and his time.
Not only do we end up with a vivid, surprising and soulful sense of one artist and his work, but Leigh also offers us a commanding view of a city, London, and country at the dawn of the modern age and of a man being overawed and overtaken by new technologies such as photography and the railways. As ever with Leigh, ‘Mr Turner’ addresses the big questions with small moments. It’s an extraordinary film, all at once strange, entertaining, thoughtful and exciting.May 15, 2014 at 4:24 am #153817
Robbie Collin from The Telegraph:
Mr Turner, review: ‘supremely enjoyable’
Cannes 2014: Mr Turner, Mike Leigh’s biopic of the artist, features Timothy Spall’s finest performance since Secrets & Lies, says Robbie Collin
In the new Mike Leigh film, Mr Turner, you can hardly miss the Mister. Joseph Mallord William is a sore thumb from the opening scene, where he’s sketching a windmill somewhere in rural Holland, poised like a pot-bellied stork among the rushes. The scene tells you everything you need to know about the man and the places he feels happiest: in short, it’s landscape as portrait, and Turner would have smiled at that.
Leigh has come to Cannes with this supremely enjoyable biopic of the English artist known as “the painter of light” — someone whose canvases, which revelled in the possibilities of colour and movement, could almost be early forerunners of cinema.
Turner is played by Timothy Spall, who gives what’s probably the finest performance of his career — the equal, at least, of his role in Leigh’s Secrets & Lies, which won the Palme d’Or here at Cannes 18 years ago. He coughs and shambles about the place like a moulting, phlegmy Gruffalo, eyes bright and hungry, bottom lip jutting proudly forward like the spout of a custard jug.
Spall’s repertoire of grunts, each one with its own distinct meaning, comfortably extends past a hundred, and you wonder if he went Method for the role, living for years in a sty until he got the voice, posture and smell just right. But beyond the troughful of fun tics, Spall makes Turner tenderly and totally human — the effect of which is to make his artistic talents seem even more extraordinary still.
The film begins in 1826, with Turner 51 years old and in the ascendant. He works from a studio in his London town house, where his housekeeper Hannah (Dorothy Atkinson) and elderly father, William Senior (Paul Jesson), keep things ticking over.
Turner’s dealings with them both, including solemn groping of the former, are brisk and straightforward. The painting process, though, is very different: Leigh shoots it in a way that it sometimes resembles an occult ritual. Early in the film, when Turner’s father visits a paint shop to replenish his son’s supplies, you see the pigments are piled up on silver platters, like spices in a souk, or potion ingredients, begging to be mixed.
Light is what moves Turner, and he moves with the light. The film spans the quarter-century until his death in 1851, and we follow him wherever he goes. At a patron’s country estate, he tussles with a gloomy rival (Martin Savage) and tries to sing a Purcell aria — he does it amusingly badly but also very tenderly, and finding the precise point of articulation between the two is pure, neat Leigh.
In Margate, Turner meets a friendly landlady (Marion Bailey), who comes to play an important role in his later life. At the Royal Academy, we see him buzzing around, joking with friends, dishing out advice and, in a perfect, self-contained skit, winding up John Constable (James Fleet).
The film is studded with these gem-like supporting roles, many of which are taken by regular Leigh players, including Lesley Manville and Ruth Sheen. Picking favourites is too difficult, but let’s just say the lisping art critic John Ruskin, hilariously played by Joshua McGuire as an oblivious smarty-pants, struck a chord with a few of us here on the Cwoisette.
In shape, Mr Turner is very much like Topsy-Turvy, Leigh’s superb, under-seen 1999 film about the comic-opera writers WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, set during the writing of The Mikado. But this is an even more ambitious work about the making of art, in which the process is not just shown as an almighty, if often very funny, strain, but something that, when done correctly, and with the stars aligned just so, can bear the artist past death and into history.
When Leigh recreates the scene that inspired Turner’s 1839 masterpiece The Fighting Temeraire, he shows the artist finding hope not in the old, exhausted warship being tugged to her last berth, but the squat, blackened tugboat in front.
“The ghost of the past,” says one of his friends, nodding sorrowfully at the larger vessel.
“No,” Turner barks. “The past is the past. You’re observing the future! Smoke. Iron. Steam!” He’s both in one man: future and past, progress and history, tugboat and Temeraire.May 15, 2014 at 4:25 am #153818
So far it’s been virtually unanimous 5-star raves for Mr. Turner. Bear in mind, though, that it is against competition rules for it to win both Palme d’Or and Best Actor for Spall.May 15, 2014 at 4:31 am #153819
And i’m so happy about that! There are a few unfavorable mentions here and there, but overall a great start to the Competition Section at Cannes 2014.
Cannot wait for this film to hit theaters.
May 15, 2014 at 6:04 am #153820
@AwardsDaily: Boy that
Mike Leigh sure knows how to make movies. #mrturner #Cannes2014
It appears I am on an island. Mr. Turner didn’t impress me as much as it did
others. Oh, well. #Cannes2014
· 3 mins
Timothy Spall has set the bar at the top in terms of Cannes best acting honours
with his grunting and irascible portrait of Mr Turner.
Impossible not to get all bedazzled and smitten by MR. TURNER’s ambitious
scope. Mike Leigh is a master. #CannesFilmFestival
· 1 min
Still mulling the slow-burner that is Mr Turner but Timothy Spall definitely
eligible for most evocative grunter at #Cannes2014
#Cannes2014 continues impressing with Mike Leigh’s very fine Mr Turner. Audaciously
plot-lite, terrific score & a
tough, touching Tim Spall
Torn on Mr. Turner. Some of it is fascinating, much of it is not. Spall not a
best actor player with this. Much too long. #Cannes2014
Grouchoromano: Mr. Turner is educational and thin, easy when trying to get
inside the character, superfluous when it’s the biopic of the artist. #
May 15, 2014 at 7:26 am #153821
Beautiful trailer! Looking forward to seeing this one!