On Saturday we went to see Mike Leigh’s latest film, “Mr Turner” about JMW Turner. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the film ever since I read about it when it was shown at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and I wasn’t disappointed.
Although I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on art, as far as I’m concerned, Turner is the greatest artist these island’s have produced. He was way ahead of his time. Although he painted traditional Romantic landscapes and mythological works, it is clear that his real interest was in the effects created by light and stormy seas. To me, many of his works are pure abstract with swirling patterns of colour and predate the works of the Impressionists who were surely influenced by him.
The film didn’t have a clear storyline as such. It was very much character driven. Timothy Spall gave a tremendous performance as Turner. He wasn’t a sympathetic charcter by any means so the portrayal was very much warts on all – well, more like grunts and snarls as that was the main way the Spall’s Turner communicated. Not the most articulate of characters – the lecture at the Royal Acadamy that featured in one scene was far from electric! – Turner’s way of communicating, as far as this film was concerned, was through his art.
The film also explored his relationships with his fellow artists and women. And in the latter, in particular, the portrayal was far from flattering. He neglected his two daughters and sexually exploited his househeeper (played by Dorothy Atkinson), but his relationship with his “mistress” Mrs Booth (Marion Bailey), his former Margate Landlady, came across as genuinly loving. His relationship with his father (Paul Jesson) was also affectionate.
All the performances by all the main characters were excellent – that’s Mike Leigh’s strength, bringing the best out of his cast – and the cinematography by Dick Pope was beautifully done, especially the landscape shots.
I went to see the film about Ian Dury, “Sex and drugs and rock and roll” at the Cornerhouse on Thursday, having missed it when it was doing the rounds of the mainstream cinemas.
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll from Flat-e on Vimeo.
I like quite a lot of Ian Dury’s music and admire the way he was able to overcome the problems associated with his disability. He didn’t try to hide it, but was out and proud as a disabled person as demonstrated by his song – “Spasticus autisticus”. The film suggested that he was influenced by the Kirk Douglas film “Spartacus”. “I’m Spartacus” becoming “I’m Spastacus”, a statement that he was disabled and proud of it. Yet the central point of this was not understood by many people who felt that his gesture was offensive. Many people want the disabled to fade into the background, not make themselves the centre of attention. Well, Ian Dury’s life was all about doing that.
The film mainly covered Ian Dury’s rise to become a chart success with the Blockheads after his earlier band “Kilburn and the Highroads” fell apart with some flashbacks to his childhood and earlier life. Overall it was a straight biopic but with some fantasy or cartoon style scenes. It rushed through at quite a pace and sometimes it was hard to work out exactly who was who and what was happening.
The central performance by Andy Serkis was outstanding. He brought the character to life and captured the essence of Ian Dury. He wasn’t a particularly pleasant character in many ways.He played the cheeky cockney but, in the film, he came across as irresponsible with a touch of ruthlessness and unpleasantness. Like many musicians his personal life was a mess, leaving his wife and two kids fo a younger woman (played by Naomi Harris in the film – another good performance) but still flitting in and out of their lives.
Overall, I enjoyed the film, and it was worth the trip into Manchester.