Granger on Movies: 'Mr. Turner'
Published 8:55 am, Friday, February 27, 2015
In 1820s Holland, Turner (Timothy Spall) is first glimpsed, scribbling in his sketchbook. After jotting down his observations abroad, he returns to his townhouse on Harley Street, where he's greeted by his doting father (Paul Jesson) and devoted housekeeper/mistress (Dorothy Atkinson).
Over the next quarter-century, Turner creates magnificent landscapes and seascapes, while cantankerously coping with a bitter, estranged mistress, two grown daughters and art critics, including judgmental members of London's Royal Academy of Arts, even Queen Victoria.
Ornery, stubborn and passionately devoted to authenticity, Turner, on one occasion, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so he can observe first-hand a storm at sea.
When he visits Margate to paint harbor scenes, he rents a seaside room under an assumed name from Mrs. Booth (Marion Bailey), whose husband is a retired seafarer. After Mr. Booth dies, Turner and Sophia Booth amiably cohabit in Chelsea until his death.
Having studied art at the Camberwell School, writer/director Mike Leigh ("Topsy-Turvy," "Vera Drake," "Secrets and Lies") and his cinematographer Dick Pope are obviously besotted by this prodigious craftsman and colorist, whose impressionistic work influenced Monet and Whistler, among others.
Embodying troubled Turner with grunts, snorts and spit, portly Timothy Spall delivers a memorably brutish portrayal. However, it's curious that Leigh completely ignores Turner's penchant for Venice, where he created some of his most radiant works.
Confession: When I saw "Mr. Turner," I was given the choice of English subtitles. At first, I demurred but, after trying to decipher many garbled utterings, I chose the subtitles and was most gratified.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Mr. Turner" is an exquisite, erudite 8, exuding color and exacting visuals.