The Images of Mr. Turner

I do not have very much to say about Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner other than to urge you all to seek it out.

Despite the fact that Leigh’s Topsy Turvy remains one of my favourite films, I had been put off going to see Mr. Turner by a series of trailers that made it look like the kind of sighing, nostalgic, worthy poison that is normally reserved for Sunday evening television. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about… conservative propaganda masquerading as ‘prestige drama’ and forced down the gullet of a population struggling to remain conscious after a weekend’s concerted hyper-consumption. British landscapes with the motorways dutifully cropped. British stately homes that are open to the public but only by appointment and on the understanding that HMRC won’t look too closely at the VAT receipts on the upkeep bills.

In truth, I shouldn’t have worried as Mr. Turner is just as strategically disrespectful as Topsy Turvy. In fact, the film’s methods and politics are so close to those of Topsy Turvy that one could almost talk of the films as a series united by a desire to re-claim, re-invent and re-humanise icons of Britain’s cultural past. I won’t hold my breath for a similar film about Agatha Christie or M.R. James but a boy can certainly dream.

The writing and acting that went into Mr. Turner are, naturally, sublime but I think particular credit needs to be given to the film’s cinematographer Dick Pope who has littered an otherwise very actor-centric film with some of the most arresting images to come out of British cinema in recent history. Though not as expressionistic as the work of Turner, you still have to marvel at Pope’s composition:


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REVIEW – Pandorum (2009)

Videovista have my review of Christian Alvart’s Science Fiction Horror film Pandorum.

This was a terrible film to watch but an interesting film to write about as its action sequences have some quite interesting technical flaws and because its overburdened narrative demonstrates one of the more depressing tendencies in Horror film-making, particularly when that Horror takes place in a Science Fictional setting.

Cinematic Vocabulary – The Opening to This Man Must Die (1969)

As with most of the big names of the New Wave, Claude Chabrol began his cinematic career as a critic for the Cahiers du Cinema.  This critical career culminated with the release in 1957 of a book about the films of Alfred Hitchcock.  This attraction to Hitchcock’s style and subject matter followed Chabrol when he ‘crossed the aisle’ from criticism to film-making and his early output quickly earned him a reputation as the ‘French Hitchcock’ and the influences can also be seen in the film I am going to be writing about today.

Que La Bete Meure (1969) was adapted by a novel by the British poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis.  It is the story of a man who tries to avenge the death of his son by tracking down the man who ran him over.  After seducing the man’s sister-in-law and infiltrating himself into the killer’s family, the grieving father discovers that the family have no more love for the thuggish monster than he does.  The scene I want to talk about is the extraordinary opening sequence leading up to the death of the child and the father’s discovery of the body.

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Cinematic Vocabulary – The Psychotic Break from Repulsion (1965)

It is a pleasure to return to Cinematic Vocabulary and kick off Polanski Week by looking at what I consider to be one of Polanski’s less appreciated films.  While The Tenant (1976) is the darling of cinephiles and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) is second only to Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) in terms of mainstream appeal, Repulsion is sometimes overlooked as an early work, sandwiched as it is between Polanski’s break through film Knife in the Water (1962) and his more famous Hollywood projects.

However, it is my contention that Repulsion is a substantial landmark on the the road of Polanski’s artistic development.  The low-budget British Horror film allowed him not only to perfect some of the cinematic techniques that would feature prominently in his later works but also to tackle some of the themes dear to the generation of 1930s surrealist film-makers who clearly had quite an influence on Polanski’s thinking.

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