BUFS preview: Mr. Turner

This week, BUFS closes out the Winter 2015 Season with Mr. Turner Mike Leigh’s latest film, Mr. Turner, offers not so much the portrait of an artist, but the landscape of his time – appropriate given the artist in question is J.M.W. Turner, one of Britain’s greatest landscape artists of the 19th century. Leigh’s film takes us to the last decades of Turner’s life and the scenes which surrounded and inspired him.

Timothy Spall’s Turner is a gruff and aging genius who doesn’t waste his energy on kindness, or even speech. Spall’s performance is marked with a seemingly endless repertoire of grunts in place of dialogue, developing a character who is at times impenetrable and uncompromising. Fortunately, the film does not skim over Turner’s artwork for the sake of a dramatic biographical story. Several of Turner’s classic pieces are on display. Spall prepared for his role by studying landscape painting, yet it is Dick Pope’s breathtaking cinematography that gets closest to achieving on film what Turner achieved on canvas.

With Mr. Turner, Mike Leigh gives us portrayals, not explanations. Leigh does not attempt to explain why Turner was the way he was, or what made him tick. The dialogue is minimal rather than lacking, demonstrating the importance of images over words in a film about an artist who may have been as misunderstood as much as he was ahead of his time.

Mr. Turner screens Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at the Landmark Theatres, Pen Centre. Visit brocku.ca/bufs for details.

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