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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mr. Turner (2014)

This is a biopic movie about one of the greatest landscape painters in British history.  The story of his life is not one of sweetness and light.  One reviewer noted that the word most associated with the movie is "austere", which translates to grim and very hard to love.  I think that captures the down side of the movie.  It is over two hours in length and however much you love Turner as a painter, you will not exit the film loving him as a person.

Turner the painter is best known for making otherwise unremarkable landscape paintings, many of the seaside, captivating by his use of light.  When he is not talking about light and the paint that he uses to achieve light in his paintings he is insufferably autistic.  His behavior is socially inept, insensitive and inappropriate. He seems not to be in control of his impulses. The combination of his awe-inspiring talent and the acclaim it brought him does not make him socially popular.  His sexual appetite is normal but his means of accomplishing relationships is odd. He mounts his housekeeper without a word and from behind, then moves about his other business.   Her interactions with him indicates that this is not an uncommon occurrence, and is in fact one aspect of their complicated relationship.

We also see Turner interacting with his colleagues, many of them landscape painters nearly as famous, at a gallery show, where he walks around inspecting the layout of the gallery, telling a painter friend that a woman's leg in a panorama could use a bit of highlight, and then startling everyone by painting a single daub of red in the middle of an intricately finished landscape painting—an act that another painter interprets as a declaration of war on whatever clichés the show embodies.  Turner is undervalued by his colleagues at the time, and it worries him not at all.  he does make one human connection with a woman who nurses him to his death, but the film brings up as many questions as it answers.  Perhaps that is the point.

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