PRINT November 2014


Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner

Mike Leigh, Mr. Turner, 2014, digital video, color, sound, 149 minutes. J. M. W. Turner (Timothy Spall).

FROM THE FIRST LONG SHOT of Mike Leigh’s epic cinematic portrait of the landscape painter J. M. W. Turner, we are unmistakably in the presence of a master. His gaze fixed on the burning disk of the sun, Turner jots rough graphite notations in a sketchbook. His feet are firmly planted; his surly, porcine profile emerges from between the lapels of an ill-fitting frock coat.

A penetrating study of late style, Mr. Turner leads us through the last third of the painter’s life, from the public triumphs of the 1820s to the experimental, nearly abstract works of the last years, when some thought he was mad. From the wordless introductory vignette of the middle-aged artist at the height of his powers to the wrenching deathbed scene a quarter century later, the film is dominated by Timothy Spall’s towering performance as Turner. The furrowed terrain of Spall’s face conveys the widest imaginable

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