Sunday, March 29, 2015

Minority report: Mr. Turner

Wikipedia: “Mr. Turner has received universal praise from critics.” Well, okay. Mr. Turner (dir. Mike Leigh, 2014), is a beautiful-looking film, extraordinarily so. Dick Pope’s cinematography makes every landscape, every seascape, every interior a painterly composition. But in this portrait of the artist as a gruff man, it’s difficult, at times impossible, to understand what he’s saying: Timothy Spall’s J. M. W. Turner is all croaks and growls and hoarse mutterings. I don’t think it’s meant to be funny, but many in last night’s audience seemed to find it hilarious, as if the film were a John Belushi samurai skit. Meant to be funny but not so: the film’s depiction of John Ruskin as a lisping mega-twit. To me that seemed the easiest, cheapest of shots. But at least I could understand Ruskin’s words, lisp and all.

Elaine and I both did a little reading about Turner last night and were surprised to learn that his last words were “The sun is God.” In the theater, we had both heard, with no second-guessing, “The sun is gone.” Diction, diction, diction.

My recommendation: wait for the DVD, and watch with subtitles.

comments: 3

Elaine Fine said...

The actor with the fine diction who plays Ruskin was excellent, and the script for the scene where he goes forth at length, with the appropriate "r" sounds as "w" sounds is brilliant. A person who knows nothing about Ruskin might not want to know more about him, though, because he comes across as insufferable. Maybe he was in person?

I should add that the playing of the Beethoven Pathetique Sonata was terrific. The pianist used an appropriate piano for the piece, and the printed music was an 1820-1825 edition that would have been used in England at the time:

I found it interesting that in that same musical scene, where Turner sings a bit of "When I am Laid," he pronounces the name of the composer as "Pur-CELL" rather than "PUR-cell."

Michael Leddy said...

Here’s the linguist David Crystal on Purcell.

John Guzlowski said...

I'm looking forward to the film. I've seen turner's art in books and in person and it never much interested me. Seems short on human content. Too much god and not enough me send you. hoping the film gives me something that will help me see what people like in his work.