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May 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

After the inauspicious opening-night premiere of Grace of Monaco on Wednesday, the Cannes Film Festival appeared to have righted itself on Thursday with the screening of British director Mike Leigh’s costume drama Mr. Turner, which focuses on the turbulent life of English artist J.M.W. Turner, portrayed by Timothy Spall. The film received overwhelming praise from critics, who immediately judged it to be a strong contender for this year’s Palme d’Or, even though it was one of the first films to be screened at the festival. It is well known that Leigh had been trying to raise the financing for the movie for years and finally had to settle for a budget of just $15 million, a paltry sum for a lavish-looking picture. “I felt there was scope for what could be a fascinating film because of what may seem the tension between this very mortal, in some ways flawed and very inspired individual and this epic work, this spiritual way that he had of distilling, capturing and expressing the world,” Leigh told a news conference at the festival on Thursday. Critics agreed that he had succeeded in his goal. Peter Bradshaw in Britain’s Guardian newspaper awarded it five stars. “Every scene in this film is expertly managed; every comic line and funny moment adroitly presented and every performance given with intelligence and love,” he wrote. It is, he concluded, “a triumph.” Robbie Collin in the Telegraph also awarded the film five stars and particularly singles out Spall’s performance in the title role. “Spall’s repertoire of grunts, each one with its own distinct meaning, comfortably extends past a hundred, and you wonder if he went Method for the role, living for years in a sty until he got the voice, posture and smell just right. But beyond the troughful of fun tics, Spall makes Turner tenderly and totally human — the effect of which is to make his artistic talents seem even more extraordinary still.”