Mr. Turner

One of the highlights of a trip to London in 1971 (yes, during Nixon's infamous Wage-Price freeze) was the discovery of J.M.W. Turner's breath- taking art in both the Tate and British Museums. When commanded by a JayFlix participant to "SEE THIS MOVIE!" I did just that.

Written and directed by Mike Leigh ("Secrets & Lies"), this Oscar-nominated film has so many things to recommend it I don't know where to begin. I think I'll just itemize some of them.
  • Brilliant acting: Timothy Spall has mastered a growling grunt which tells us he is an impatient and rude fellow. In addition, the moment he walks into a scene, his unique stride tells us the same thing. Anyone who is a fan of Masterpiece Theatre will recognize a host of familiar faces.
  • Amazing landscapes: As a scene starts, it's impossible to tell if Dick Pope (Director of Photography) is introducing an actual location or one of Turner's paintings. Colors and locations in the UK are dazzling!
  • Unspoken emotions: We see Turner go to a brothel and use that visit to vent his unexpressed grief at his father's death. In addition, we see his devoted housemaid serve him in a variety of ways even as we see her health deteriorate and witness the spread of her horrific eczema.
  • Wonderful dialogue: In the movie theater, I had a Closed Caption device, so was able to relish an elegant use of the English language that is rarely used these days! But I had to look up scrofula!
  • Authentic production design: Never for a moment do we doubt that we are in the early 1800s. His equipment, transportation, clothing, medical attention and surroundings all are convincing.
Celebrated by the aristocracy and later satirized by the commoners, we follow the rise and fall (and rise again) of a genius who is the forerunner of Impressionism.

Our "hero" has no use for celebrity, nor will he yield to public tastes. This film is deservedly R-rated but offers the biography of a brilliant artist who never marries, travels incognito, has several associations with various women and spends his final 18 years in Chelsea with a widow named "Mrs Booth." It's hard to mourn the curmudgeon, but we cherish his legacy.
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See for yourself:
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