Leigh's Turner film 'a masterpiece'

Hillingdon Times: Actor Timothy Spall and director Mike Leigh arrive for the screening of Mr Turner at the Cannes film festival (AP) Actor Timothy Spall and director Mike Leigh arrive for the screening of Mr Turner at the Cannes film festival (AP)

Mike Leigh's biopic of painter JMW Turner has united the critics in praise after it opened at the Cannes Film Festival.

Mr Turner, which stars Timothy Spall as the legendary artist, is one of 18 movies in the running to be awarded the Palme d'Or - the prestigious prize handed out every year to the best film in competition at the annual event in the south of France.

The Daily Mail's Brian Viner gave the film five stars and said it was "something of a masterpiece".

He also singled out Spall, saying he " has never been better, which is proper praise".

Writing in The Independent, Geoffrey Macnab praised Spall's "magnificent central performance" and the film's "occasional flights of visual splendour".

There was another five star review in the Daily Telegraph, whose critic Robbie Collin said Spall gave "probably the finest performance of his career".

He also said the film was " studded with gem-like supporting roles" including one of Leigh's regular cast of performers, Lesley Manville.

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw said it was "a glorious film" and " another triumph for Mike Leigh and Timothy Spall".

Leigh is up against another veteran of the UK film industry - Ken Loach - for the Palme d'Or.

Loach's Jimmy's Hall, which is being screened next week, is based on the true story of an Irish communist who ran a dance hall.

Both Loach and Leigh are regulars at the festival and have won its top prize before.

Leigh won the Palme d'Or in 1996 for Secrets And Lies, while another of Loach's films set in Ireland - The Wind That Shakes The Barley - won a decade later.

They are up against 16 other films including Tommy Lee Jones's western The Homesman starring Meryl Streep and Hilary Swank, and wrestling drama Foxcatcher with Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Sienna Miller among the cast.

Michel Hazanavicius, the man behind Oscar-winning The Artist, is also in competition with his new film The Search.

Other films being shown out of competition include Ned Benson's Eleanor Rigby, which stars Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, and Ryan Gosling's directorial debut Lost River.

Director Jane Campion, the only woman to have won the Palme d'Or, is leading the festival's jury this year for the competition on the Riviera resort.

Other jury members include actor Willem Dafoe and film-makers Sofia Coppola and Nicolas Winding Refn.

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