January 7, 2015

Rain, steam and spit


Mr Turner (Mike Leigh, 2014). There is still the Mike Leigh gift for Dickensian caricature but with the added weight of real life, carried through years or decades by an eccentric, fond Timothy Spall performance as the grunting genius painter. Art, physical pain, suppressed grief, disease and decrepitude, even sex. All that, but also the film is so deeply funny in its use of arcane Victorian dialogue and its affectionate view of the machinations of the art world, a nest of vipers then and possibly even now. Is the gruff defiant painter a Leigh self-portrait and the prissy Ruskin a crack at all critics, even those who support him? Too easy, surely. But this is a masterpiece either way.