Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mr. Turner

2014 saw the release of many films revolving around real-life people. The prominent (Selma, The Theory of Everything), those forgotten by history (The Imitation Game, Belle) and the recently living (Wild, American Sniper), it was a menagerie of (mostly) factual stories.

So where does Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner rank? Indeed, its subject matter of British artist J.M.W. Turner is not someone many people know of like Monet, van Gogh or Picasso. But Turner's work is easily memorable once one has seen it. (He isn't known as "the painter of light" for nothing.)

In the role of Turner is Timothy Spall, a regular name among Leigh's films. Here, he delivers the performance of his career. Spall portrays Turner as a multi-faceted personality, a man of many triumphs and flaws. It's a role that's once in a lifetime for an actor, and Spall gives it his all. (Erm, that rhyme wasn't intended.)

It simply must be mentioned that the cinematography from Dick Pope is stunning. Every shot looks as if Turner's paintings had come to life. (That's a common thing, isn't it? Films about people making beautiful things having been gorgeously shot?) Combine it with the Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts' production design and Gary Yershon's score, and it makes for an absolutely striking film.

Like Topsy-Turvy, Leigh proves with Mr. Turner that he can make a great costume drama. All of its elements work wonderfully, something not frequently seen in contemporary films. It's a film that people should see.

My Rating: *****

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