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Director Mike Leigh's J.M.W. Turner biopic impresses at Cannes

Mike Leigh's 'Mr. Turner' garners nearly unanimous praise from critics at the Cannes Film Festival
Timothy Spall stars as artist J.M.W. Turner in Mike Leigh's latest movie receiving acclaim at Cannes

"Mr. Turner," the new movie from Mike Leigh that recounts the life of the famed British painter J.M.W. Turner, debuted Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival where it received nearly unanimous praise from critics.

Timothy Spall plays Turner in the movie, with a supporting cast that includes such other Leigh stalwarts as Lesley Manville and Ruth Sheen. The movie follows the last 25 years of Turner's life, dramatizing his close relationship with his father, who was a barber, and his dealings with colleagues in the art world.

Famed for his maritime and landscape paintings that captured sunlight in a singular way, Turner is often described in history books as an idiosyncratic man who led a somewhat solitary life and never married.

This appears to be a fruitful period for Turner and the movies. The artist's 1838 painting "The Fighting Temeraire" was prominently featured in the last James Bond movie "Skyfall," in a scene where 007 meets Q at London's National Gallery.

Leigh's "Mr. Turner" will be distributed in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics. No U.S. release date has been announced. The movie is Leigh's first historical biographical picture since 1999's "Topsy-Turvy," which chronicled the relationship between Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert during the making of "The Mikado."

Times film critic Kenneth Turan recently spoke with Leigh in an interview at Cannes.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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