Love Is The Devil: Study For A Portrait Of Francis Bacon

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • R
  • Biography, Drama

It's not a pretty picture, but Francis Bacon -- the late British painter who depicted the human form as distorted lumps of flesh, tooth, bone and gristle -- was never very interested in pretty. In a brilliant, stylistic tour de force, writer-director John Maybury offers a scathing portrait of the tormented artist, designed in the style of Bacon's own grotesque...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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It's not a pretty picture, but Francis Bacon -- the late British painter who depicted the human form as distorted lumps of flesh, tooth, bone and gristle -- was never very interested in pretty. In a brilliant, stylistic tour de force, writer-director

John Maybury offers a scathing portrait of the tormented artist, designed in the style of Bacon's own grotesque visions. The film focuses on Bacon's life during the 1960s and the years he spent with George Dyer, an ex-con who served as model, lover and deeply troubled muse. Francis (Derek Jacobi,

bearing a striking resemblance to the real-life Bacon) first meets George (Daniel Craig) when the would-be burglar comes tumbling down the rabbit hole of the artist's own private hell: Intending to rob the place, George comes through the skylight of Francis's London studio. He winds up spending

the next seven years by Francis's side, much to the savage amusement of the artist's pub-crawling art-world cronies (including a fully transformed Tilda Swinton as Muriel Belcher, the caustic proprietor of the Bacon haunt the Colony Room, and Karl Johnson as the photographer John Deakin). But

George is prey to demons of his own -- terrifying nightmares, debilitating paranoia, and an uncontrollable death wish -- and as Francis continues to gain international acclaim, George begins to unravel. It's a harrowing examination of artistic and emotional interdependency, and Maybury is

unsparing in his depiction of Bacon as heartlessly self-serving, dishing up all the lurid details of the artist's masochistic sexual obsessions. But Maybury steers clear of facile psychologizing, offering instead Bacon at work amid the legendary chaos of his studio, slashing at his canvases with

brushes, hands and even a garbage can lid. Jacobi's and Craig's performances are both gut-wrenching and startlingly raw, and the whole film, thanks in large part to John Mathieson's inspired cinematography, has the frightening look of a Bacon canvas come to life.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: R
  • Review: It's not a pretty picture, but Francis Bacon -- the late British painter who depicted the human form as distorted lumps of flesh, tooth, bone and gristle -- was never very interested in pretty. In a brilliant, stylistic tour de force, writer-director John… (more)

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