Renowned British filmmaker Mike Leigh and the Cannes Film Festival have history. His films have always been well-received there, and his 1996 adoption drama, Secrets And Lies, won the Palme d’Or at that year’s festivities. He served on the festival jury himself in 1997, where he famously butted heads with then Jury President, Isabelle Adjani, and now, he has returned with his latest project, Mr. Turner, which is screening in competition.
Mr. Turner sees regular Leigh collaborator Timothy Spall (The King’s Speech) play the famous British painter, J.M.W. Turner, in a period drama exploring the last 25 years of his life, which ended in 1851. The synopsis of the film, as presented at Cannes, gives a more in-depth view:
“Profoundly affected by the death of his father, loved by a housekeeper he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, [Turner] forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, where he dies. Throughout this, he travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty.”
The film was the first of the festival to screen in competition, and was very well-received – earning a raft of five-star reviews from critics in attendance. Particular praise was heaped on Spall’s central performance, as well as that of the supporting cast – featuring Paul Jesson (Coriolanus), Dorothy Atkinson (Chatroom) and Marion Bailey (Toast). While the UK will get to see the film in cinemas from October 31, 2014, there is currently no US release date set – although that may well change given the rapturous reception that Mr. Turner got at its premiere.
In the meantime, we have a trailer to share with you, which showcases Leigh’s sumptuous vision, paired with Spall’s intimidating and gruff turn as the titular Mr. Turner. The most striking thing about this preview is the very deliberate, very careful pacing – combining a wonderfully lyrical score with seemingly long takes, to achieve an almost wistful atmosphere. Any qualms about whether this film might be appealing to audiences without an interest in the world of fine art are set to rest, as the overall narrative presented here seems to be one of a man pushing against the restrictive expectations of consumers of his art – a man seeking to develop and try new things, only to be penalized and ridiculed for such an attempt at evolution.
In any case, it looks to be an enthralling piece of cinema and, if today’s reaction to it is anything to go by, we will be hearing a lot more about Mr. Turner in the coming months.