Making it's bow at last weeks Cannes Film Festival, Mike Leigh's J.M.W. Turner biopic promises to be a big old celebration of all that is good in English arts.
Leigh's 13th feature film spans the final 25 years of the painter's life, leading up to his death in 1851 aged 76. Timothy Spall (The Kings Speech), still young in comparison at 57, even learnt the rudiments of Turner's craft for the role. As he told The Telegraph, he completed one of Turner's paintings of steamers. "I'd reckon I'm now as good as Turner was when he was, say, nine," Spall revealed, "and he was pretty bloody good at nine".
The film, like Amadeus (1984) and Pollock (2000) before it, will explore the artist's unquenchable desire to create. "Turner was a compulsive artist," Leigh explained. "Turner had to paint, had to draw, all the time, he just never stopped. It was an absolute obsession."
Like Mozart and Jackson Pollock, Turner's genius was tempered by, well, temper. "[He] was eccentric, anarchic, vulnerable, imperfect, erratic and sometimes uncouth," Leigh told the broadsheet. "He could be selfish and disingenuous, mean yet generous, and he was capable of great passion and poetry." The trailer majors on his rivalry with artist peers John Constable (James Fleet) and John Ruskin (Joshua McGuire).
Leigh has assembled a cadre of veteran collaborators for this one, including Vera Drake's (2004) Marion Bailey, who plays Turner's Margate landlady, and Topsy-Turvy's (1999) Dorothy Atkinson, his housekeeper, while cinematographer Dick Pope (The Illusionist), costumer Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina) and Academy Award® winning make-up designer Christine Blundell (Sherlock Holmes) former key parts of his production team. All the signs are positive for a Topsy-Turvy calibre period piece from the director.
Mr. Turner arrives in UK cinemas on 31 October.