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In the 1960s, British painter Francis Bacon (1909-1992) surprises a burglar and invites him to share his bed. The burglar, a working class man named George Dyer, 30 years Bacon's junior, accepts. Bacon finds Dyer's amorality and innocence attractive, introducing him to his Soho pals. In their sex life, Dyer dominates, Bacon is the masochist. Dyer's bouts with depression, his drinking and pill popping, and his satanic nightmares strain the relationship, as does his pain with Bacon's casual infidelities. Bacon paints, talks with wit, and, as Dyer spins out of control, begins to find him tiresome. Could Bacon care less? Written by
This is a fearless, eerie film about the relationship between British painter Francis Bacon (Derek Jacobi) and his handsome, unsophisticated lover George Dyer (the new James Bond, Daniel Craig). The destructive affair is told from Bacon's and Dyer's perspectives with unsettling images strongly directed by John Maybury. Their story is somewhat like Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell's (told by Stephen Frears in "Prick Up Your Ears"), and the emotional bond between the intellectual artist and the rustic lover reminds me of Truman Capote and Perry Smith (coincidentally, Daniel Craig played Smith in "Infamous") - except that "Love is the Devil" is visceral, surreal and dark like Francis Bacon's world was, and Bennett Miller's acclaimed "Capote", a good, albeit overrated, film with a spectacular performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman, was more concerned about being elegant and palatable than being closer to the truth. Bacon and Capote were talented, troubled men, with huge ego issues, who were partly responsible for their respective lover's (Dyer)/ protégé's/victim? (Smith) ruin - and, later, for their own.
Had John Maybury been like Bennett Miller and turned Bacon's life into an 'elegant' flick, we'd have an Oscar contender here; thankfully he did not, and we got a brave little film that is hard to watch because it's such a visceral painting of an unsettling world. Jacobi and Craig are phenomenal, and the always fantastic Tilda Swinton has a small part as one of Bacon's friends. Well done, Mr. Maybury. 8/10.
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