I just saw Mr. Turner and thought I'd share some thoughts on the film. This is mostly for karen9's benefit as I know she's a fellow Turner fan -- and this is definitely a film for Turner fans. Timothy Spall is absolutely incredible as Turner. Apparently, at Mike Leigh's request, Spall spent two years learning to paint in order to prepare for the role, which is something that is delightfully apparent on screen. Like Turner, Spall gets down to business, sticking his fingers in globs of paint, scraping his fingers across the canvas, spitting on the painting: all the things you might expect Turner to do. It isn't overblown or romanticized, but you feel you're seeing moments of genius all the same. This film provides a completely unflinching look at Joseph Mallard William Turner, numerous warts and all. It isn't an uplifting film -- how many films about artists are? -- but I, personally, found it fascinating. I think it may be the closest we'll get to understanding what it might have been like to inhabit that world. The production values are excellent and the film gives you a real feeling for the time period. What I liked best was seeing some of the subjects Turner painted, such as HMS Temeraire, which is brilliantly depicted. Oh, and, of course, there are the paintings themselves.
If you have some familiarity with both Turner's biography and his more famous paintings, such as The Slave Ship and Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway, you'll probably get a bit more satisfaction out of the film. However, I don't think previous knowledge of Turner is absolutely necessary. In fact, I would imagine that Mr. Turner would be an ideal introduction to this sublime artist. By the way, in case anyone's wondering, my own introduction to Turner occurred in university. I was taking a course on Greek and Roman mythology and my instructor showed us this painting (Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus):
I was completely blown away. I think I probably stared at Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus with my mouth open, wondering who was behind this divine creation. In that instant, I became completely besotted with Turner. For this reason alone, I think Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus is probably still my favourite painting.
Crossposted at http://rusty-armour.dreamwidth.org/13145