Monday, 17 November 2014

REVIEW - MR. TURNER (MIKE LEIGH)


A stringent rebuttal of the conventions of biopic cinema; a vivid and tangible celebration of art in all its forms, with this form taking the depiction of a truly great artist, by another. As J. M. W. Turner's paintings were too, Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner is more landscape than portrait, encompassing all of that and those which characterised his existence, each momentary diversion cumulating into a picture as rich and clear as his own tableaus. It is a mere few scenes into Mr. Turner that the breadth of Leigh's scope is unveiled entirely, the passion and the precision with which he contemplates and examines art and artists both, whether they specialise in painting, music or his beloved process of acting, ringing out with his acute, sensitive touch. Mr. Turner possesses an immediacy missing from the majority of period pieces on film, Leigh's signature filmmaking techniques of improvisation and collaboration rarely so gratifyingly used than here, in 19th Century England. Yet it also possesses an ethereal quality, a sense of time passing languorously, a delicate watercolour piece on the constancy of a man's genius through time. What we observe is the extent of that genius, and its remarkable tenacity - as Turner ages, his mind and body slowly decaying toward death, his talent remains steadfast, seeming now to overwhelm him, rather than inspire him. Timothy Spall is appropriately physical as Turner, displaying a tactility that is most suited to this expressive figure, and that only enhances the film's vibrancy. No Mike Leigh film can go spoken of without extensive mention of its cast, and Spall is not the sole standout among it: Dorothy Atkinson and Marion Bailey are two particularly memorable presences as Turner's maid, Hannah Danby, and widow, Sophia Booth, respectively.