Mr. Turner Screen 28 articles

Mr. Turner

2014

Mr. Turner Poster
  • The flaccidity of the expansive slice of life by British master director Mike Leigh of British master painter J.M.W. Turner is both livened and dead-weighted by so much ham on screen it achieves something near a lowbrow kinship to the subtle extravagances of Turner's grandiose visions of light.

  • Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner made for a challenging first morning screening. Flabby in length and sporting some seriously gnarly tonal shifts, this massive biopic examines the late-period life of the British landscape painter who made waves in the 19th century for his eccentric views and stubborn aesthetics. While it doesn’t cohere very convincingly as a drama, the film is ambitious enough to admit that history is not an easily discernible timeline. Life resides in its many painterly cracks.

  • With its perfectly linear trajectory, and the more mannered dialogue (at least compared to Leigh’s other films, with their roots in improvisation), the film lumbers along like its protagonist, single-minded and exhausting... In fact, Mr. Turner may be Leigh’s most technically accomplished film to date, but one unfortunately sapped of lasting effect by its antihero’s heaving disposition.

  • Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner puts the English painter’s life under the microscope, but despite the enthusiasm of the vocal British contingent at Cannes, the film remains a largely conventional biopic, and, in episodically spanning a large chunk of the painters life, is denuded of most of its potential narrative dynamism.

  • It's Leigh's familiar m.o., but the comic strokes seem more repetitive (Spall a grunting gargoyle) and the sadness less specific; Turner's withdrawal into abstraction, both in life and painting, is cited but not really established, his misanthropy just a faint outline... and the Art, crucially, gets a little lost in the bittiness (cf. Topsy-Turvy, which never lost sight of it).

  • Though I would venture to guess that the seventy-one year-old Leigh finds something heroic in his subject’s adoption of an experimental “late style,” his own displays more serenity than the brio and boldness of Turner, who was reported to boast “I am the real lion. I am the great lion of the day.” The result is a decidedly earthbound tribute to an artist who kept his eyes on the sun.

  • [In biopics about artists,] most directors opt to echo their subjects’ style – Derek Jarman mimicking Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro, Peter Greenaway recreating Rembrandt’s tableaux, John Huston emulating Toulouse-Lautrec’s hues with filters and so on. Leigh follows suit, paying close attention to the patina of light while also faithfully recreating a selection of Turner’s famous sun- and moon-lit landscapes and lesser-known interiors.

  • What follows, for a leisurely but always engrossing two and a half hours, is an equally impressionistic portrait of a dyspeptic artist—Spall’s grunts almost qualify as symphonic—whose pictorial obsession with the pitiless cruelty of nature seems at one with his own brutal indifference to 19th-century propriety.

  • Magnificently staged though the long takes may be, it is often his shot-reverse-shot sequences that define the essence of Mr. Turner. They appear only rarely, but the precise timing of the edits and changes in composition highlight the unspoken psychology of the characters with piercing honesty; an early piano duet between Turner and a woman takes on sensual qualities simply through the careful pushes Leigh cuts between his two characters.

  • Deliberately paced, handsomely shot, reassuringly humanizing... [Mr. Leigh] conveys what Turner saw — the soft landscapes, stormy colors and holy light — if not how he saw it.

  • Leigh’s world-building is immaculate: abetted by Suzy Davies’ extraordinary production design, “Mr. Turner” subtly constructs environments -- be it the ship-speckled Margate coastline or the interior of an aristocrat’s drawing room -- that evoke what Turner sees, tonally and spatially, that those around him cannot.

  • It’s a profile in fragments, and its subject is harsh. Leigh seems to enjoy the domestic, emotional, and psychological messiness of the distant past. He’s like Campion that way. You’re drawn to Spall’s mix of primitivism and sophistication (this is his sixth movie with Leigh). His performance has so many layers that there might be no authentic person there, but each layer accounts for an aching, volatile man.

  • Spall’s performance fearlessly renders Turner as a man devoid of charm and social skills but absolutely dedicated to his uncompromising vision of painting, evolving from representation to the abstraction of nearly pure color and light.

  • The immaculate, semi-gothic production design anchors you in the period, as does a script which feels like it was laboured-over for years, decades, without ever feeling precious or wantonly ornate. Mr Turner's greatness derives from the fact that you feel like you're watching a film which its director fully intended to be a masterpiece.

  • [Spall] so fully internalizes Turner that he doesn’t seem to be playing the part as much as channeling it. With his great squashed-in face, Spall shows you every flicker of thought that flashes across Turner’s mind, and every wince of pain that courses through his wearying body. He conveys the sense of a man driven by a talent and passion even he doesn’t fully understand — a raging, difficult, gruntingly inarticulate soul who finds in pictures the clarity of expression that otherwise elude him.

  • Over the film's 20-year span, Leigh renders the painter's life as a collage of moments, as we watch him chase his life to the finish line. Yet the movie has an elegant balance, matching a tender deathbed scene with Turner's father with later scenes of Turner's own decline.

  • The movie is not perfect—there are a few negligible missteps, such as portraying Turner’s critics in the time-worn manner of ridiculing the blindness to one’s contemporary geniuses as moronic... These weaknesses don’t matter, though. I am happy to report that the 67th Cannes Film Festival kicked off with a movie so original, adventurous and beautiful; we will all be talking about it in the years to come.

  • [Turner is] intractable, uncommunicative, dismissive. But he is also, as Spall and Leigh show us, capable of delicate gradations of emotion. This is less your standard-issue biopic than a foray into the mystery of human feeling. Mr. Turner, majestic in its stubbornness, may be Leigh’s finest picture, or, at the very least, a picture different from any other he’s made.

  • This is an extraordinary film, perhaps closer to big Victorian social canvases like Frith's The Derby Day than to Turner's own work. It's a huge tableau that offers an expansive sweep but also, in characteristic Leigh style, homes in on the fine details and eccentricities of society and character.

  • Like Maurice Pialat with Van Gogh, Leigh has assumed an extremely sophisticated approach to the task of recounting the life of a true giant of painting, who worked in the divinely inhuman realm of light. Dick Pope’s images stress the presence of light, while Leigh’s dramatic focus is on that which might one day be dissolved in light’s transcendence—indifference, callousness, cruelty, exploitation.

  • For Leigh, film is nothing if it doesn't capture the odd and unappealing as often as it does the beautiful, and the holiness of light is useless if it doesn't reveal the ugliness of life as often as it finds its glory.

  • Leigh shows us the painter’s inability to engage with the mundane reality of his surroundings: Here’s a man who seems almost clinically incapable of dealing with other people. But the director then juxtaposes that with Turner’s transcendent attempts to capture the sublime drama of nature. This is a very lived-in, immersive period picture and demands to be seen on a big screen.

  • Leigh is more concerned with re-situating Turner within the social and cultural context of his particular milieu; the material details of time and place are recreated with the same meticulous precision that distinguishedTopsy-Turvy and Vera Drake.

  • "Iron" Mike Leigh’s biopic of British Romantic painter, JMW Turner, bursts with such vivid detail that single frames stand alone as art. Watercolour opening credits morph into a Belgian field at dawn. Two worker women stroll by a river, their ordinary clothes and chatter imbued with grace by the orange sky above them. The camera then finds another figure in the distance. He’s a portly silhouette with a downturned lip, a stove-pipe hat and eyes locked on to the landscape he’s sketching.

  • Seeing the exhibition and the film together is like watching a strange, exhilarating conversation. And what a fine film it is: rich, enjoyable, imaginative, faithful to Turner’s spirit. Steering clear of familiar biopic clichés, it slides between modes like a Dickens novel, from the psychological depth of the central characters to jovial party scenes at Petworth and Punch-like caricatures of catty, competitive Royal Academicians.

  • While Leigh’s working methods doubtlessly foster an environment in which the actor can thrive, Spall is the one who works up the internal storm: Rarely has an actor been so persuasive at simply showing a person stopped short and being overtaken with feeling, again and again, a pure openness to someone or something or some moment that is what allowed him to create what he did.

  • Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet it's fascinating, and the performances and photography are outstanding.

  • The film essentially asks the age-old question of how an artist can be so sensitive to the beauty of nature while also being so insensitive to the people around him. While it's not likely that Leigh "identifies" with Turner in the manner of, say, Hayao Miyazaki and the artist-protagonist of THE WIND RISES, this is clearly a deeply felt work through which the filmmaker does convey personal feelings.

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