Like many an art fiend, I am a huge fan of J.M.W. Turner. I recently had the pleasure of watching Mike Leigh’s biopic of the artist, and I was impressed.
While J.M.W. Turner would never, and I mean NEVER, win the British art prize awarded in his name, he is still as popular today as he was in his lifetime – maybe more so – and given this, it was about time somebody made a film about him. Enter Mike Leigh.
Mr. Turner, although lengthy, is not a full accounting of the the artists life, but rather, an examination of the last 25 years of his career. Owing to the scope of the project, and the fact that many of his best works were produced later in life, this was probably a wise decision.
This film certainly doesn’t flatter Turner, but to be fair, it doesn’t really flatter anyone else either. The aristocracy, the Royal Academy, and most of all, the critic John Ruskin are all portrayed in a negative light. Not to worry, Turner’s likability, or that of his supporting cast, shouldn’t deter the viewer – many a genius was also a cad.
At times quite beautiful, the Oscar nod for best cinematography is well deserved, as are the nods for costume design and music (original score). That said, of all the films best qualities, the performance of Timothy Spall is by far the greatest. Sadly, he did not receive a nomination.
There isn’t much to complain about here. If you’re a fan of Turner, or just great film making, you’ll want to see this.