Mr Turner

Written on May 23, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Film

turnerWhat 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 banter 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 that 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.

Continue reading in The Guardian


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