Cannes: Sony Pictures Classics On A Roll As ‘Mr. Turner’ Becomes Instant Oscar Contender

Now that opening night is behind us and all the unnecessary vitriolic venom from some critics toward the Cannes Film Festival‘s choice for opener, Grace Of Monaco, the main official competition got underway tonight. The first film eligible for awards to screen was Mr. Turner from Mike Leigh, who has been in the hunt on the Croisette four times before and won the coveted Palme d’Or in 1996 for his masterpiece, Secrets & Lies.

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After seeing his latest, an uncharacteristic period piece, screen to an enthusiastic black-tie crowd at the Grand Lumiere Theatre at the Palais, I would venture to say he has just unleashed yet another masterpiece in Cannes. And given what you hope to see here at the festival, I would bet right now this one will be a major Oscar contender in several categories after it is released stateside December 19 by Sony Pictures Classics. It’s that good in terms of costume and production design, makeup, music, writing, directing and particularly acting. If there aren’t nominations for star Timothy Spall and supporting actress Marion Bailey, then something is terribly wrong with the Academy. Acting just doesn’t get better than this. Spall is simply extraordinary as 18th century English painter J.M.W. Turner in a performance that has got it all and drew early raves from critics and big applause from tonight’s audience. Yet Spall himself is modest about the whole thing and doesn’t seem to know what he has accomplished, at least according to what he told me at the film’s private dinner party at the Film Four (which financed) headquarters in Cannes. “I am so inside the movie, I don’t have any objectivity about it,” he said. “Yes, it’s fantastic every time I’ve seen it, but I don’t understand it all.” He added about the total transformation he makes in this film, I look at it and say, ‘Who’s that?'” No doubt we will be encountering him on the awards circuit many times during the next nine months. This is just the beginning. It’s a long road, but I can’t imagine Spall won’t be on it the whole time. (more…)

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