Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (1998)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Gay & Lesbian Films  |   Release Date - Oct 7, 1998 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - France , United Kingdom , Japan , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The life of Francis Bacon may have been too vast, turbulent, and dark to be made into a film, but this sketch of a brief period of his life encounters its own problems. The film's limitations are two-fold: there are no finished Bacon paintings on view (presumably, rights were too expensive or difficult to obtain), and Bacon is not going to come off well, given the outcome of this episode, an affair with burglar George Dyer. What director John Maybury and his colleagues try to accomplish is a quick submersion in Bacon's world, alternating between scenes of him in a frenzy, painting in his studio, and of nights at his favorite bar, the Colony Room, where the great man held court with a gallery of grotesques right out of a Fellini film. As a couple, Bacon and Dyer are reminiscent of playwright Joe Orton and his lover, Kenneth Halliwell (as portrayed by Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina, in Prick Up Your Ears), with the artist heaping abuse on his slow-witted lover until said lover snaps. But Orton's own torment over hiding his sexual preference made him a figure of some sympathy; here, Derek Jacobi's Bacon is so sadistic, that, in the absence of any screen evidence of his powerful art, we are forced to presume his greatness and forgive (or allow) him sins of neglect and abuse. Ultimately, this is a sketch that only works as such.