Reviews

Love Is The Devil

4

Love Is The Devil is a far cry from the traditional biopic of the great artist. Director Maybury, whose background lies in experimental film-making and pop videos, avoids a plodding, chronological approach to Bacon's life. Instead, the fragmented narrative focuses on his turbulent homosexual relationship with Dyer, a petty East End villain who became the subject of some of the artist's most celebrated paintings.

Borrowing from Daniel Farson's memoir The Gilded Gutter Life Of Francis Bacon, Maybury paints a vivid portrait of London's Bohemian demi-monde during the '60s. The plot centres on Soho's Colony Room drinking club; with its bizarre collection of drunks, hangers-on and rent-boys, all presided over by a caustic Swinton, the club is memorably described by Bacon as a "concentration of camp."

Thankfully, Maybury resists the temptation to present us with a hagiography. Bacon emerges not as a sexual masochist with a penchant for rough trade, but as an emotional sadist, who delights in publicly humiliating the unfortunate Dyer and treats his partner's deteriorating mental state with complete contempt.

Jacobi, bearing an uncanny physical resemblance to Bacon, injects his powerful characterisation with a tragic dimension: this is a man who, in his own words, is "optimistic about nothing," and who, in private, is truly devastated by the loss of his lover.

The greatest triumph is that the visual style captures the tortured mood of Bacon's paintings. It's fittingly crammed with images of dread - Dyer's agonising nightmares are particularly haunting - hence the rush of distorted camera angles, the grotesque close-ups, the use of mirrors and triptychs, and the claustrophobic framings. Not easy to watch, but it certainly captures the spirit of a remarkable artist.

Verdict:

Love Is The Devil may be low in budget, but it's rich in invention and imagination. This tragic love story is a provocative, uncompromising piece of British film-making, which through its visual style, effectively conveys Bacon's morbid vision of the world.

Film Details

  • 18
  • UK Theatrical Release Date: September 18th 1998

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