Main cast: Derek Jacobi (Francis Bacon), Daniel Craig (George Dyer), Tilda Swinton (Muriel Belcher), Anne Lambton (Isabel Rawsthorne), Adrian Scarborough (Daniel Farson), Karl Johnson (John Deakin), Annabel Brooks (Henrietta Moraes), and Richard Newbold (Blond Billy)
Director: John Maybury
In 1998 John Maybury wrote and directed Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon, a squeamish and I guess supposedly shocking portrayal of the much-heralded British artist Francis Bacon.
The self-taught and bitterly gay Francis Bacon is well known for his nightmarish paintings, and this movie loves to use and abuse the visual sometimes confusing artistic styling of the artist. That’s the best I could come up with to explain the naked man covered in wet paint sporadically jumping about at key emotional moments in this film. It’s that or this filmmaker was attempting a homage to Madonna’s Erotica video; either way it’s rather weird.
My partner Jason kept strolling by right at these times and finally stopped and asked, “What the hell are you watching?” Jason just does not understand ART, the surrealism, the bad lighting, the British accents, the pale skin and untoned naked bodies flopping around like dead fish. Poor Jason.
This is ART PEOPLE! Really Truly ART! You can hear the director screaming “ART!” at the top of his lungs. This movie tries desperately to delve deep into the sordid and tragic love life of a whiny drama queen with a paint brush and his severely mentally depressed and unstable and all around lousy lover who committed suicide. Grasping and flailing about like a drowning man this film searches for some type of meaning. I am relevant, I am British, hear me roar!
The basic story told is that George Dyer falls through a skylight of Francis Bacon’s studio one night in a failed attempt at burglary or something to that effect. Francis after eyeing the fallen Dyer offers him anything he wants as long as he agrees to a roll in the proverbial ‘hay’ with him. Well that was right to the point if you ask me.
This movie is not what you would call a lighthearted gay romp of a romance here. Anyway, I guess that it was hot sex and all (I have no idea, I looked away after seeing dirty saggy underwear and flabby butts, that’s just REAL and this is REAL ART) because Dyer decides to hang around and next thing we know they are starting down that tragic 60’s gay path of dysfunctional matrimony. The sadomasochism, the alcoholism, the self-involvement, the downright evil things they do and say to each other, it will grind on you till you are unsure who should die that much foretold horrible painful death first and how soon can this be arranged.
Okay, it’s over what more can I say???
In brief (or is that briefs?)
Points from me for Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon being a non-white washed (not even the tighty whities) cloying gay love story. There is nothing even remotely politically correct here.
Points taken off for all the sordid cruel stuff without any hint or any clue why either of these characters would hang around abusing each other like this. I mean come on, there had to be some remote emotional involvements? Don’t even get me started on being forced to watch some brief glimpses of pretty dang nasty-ass sex scenes. Oh boy! Flabby pale gay guys having drunken sex!
Oh well, another ‘trying to be intelligent’ low budget independent movie loses itself in artistic interpretation and emotional trauma-o-rama but refuses to bother giving a complete picture or an actual story of a real life good or bad gay relationship. What else is new?