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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
John Maybury's film presents artist Francis Bacon as an uncaring, disturbed, unhinged, genius who used people and life to feed his bizarre artistic talent. Even the way the film is shot (distorted images, odd angles, flashes of colour) shouts 'artist'. Against this backdrop the story of Bacon's life is secondary.
Derek Jacobi plays Bacon, in a radical departure from the work he is best known for - in fact, this film was completed while he was regularly on television as brother Cadfael. He is excellent in a deeply unsympathetic role. Daniel Craig, as his lover, nemesis, and muse, is also very good. Tilda Swinton is the best of a supporting cast of oddball characters.
This film is ultimately frustrating, difficult, and perhaps a pointless exercise as far as giving us any lasting impression of Bacon's character. But, like his well-known paintings, it is snatches of images you will remember.
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