I have to admit I love watching films about artists. It’s amusing to seeing how creative sensibilities are translated and represented through movies. The “at work in the studio” scenes are what I typically wait for. In studio scenes, most movies tend to go for the over-dramatic, portraying some frazzled moment of feverish resolve. Having done my time in art school, I’ve never known over-dramatic flailing to be typical studio behavior. So when I see a film that portrays studio time for what it is, sitting, staring at the wall, followed by moving things about, then staring at the wall again, you know you’ve found a good one.
Love is the Devil is an artist biopic worth seeing. John Maybury‘s film is about infamous British painter Francis Bacon. This film is many things, severe, horrific, unnerving, depressing, crude, and yes, sometimes over-dramatic. But these are all words that could be used to describe Bacon’s paintings, many of which have even been used to describe Bacon himself. I think what Maybury does best is create an impression of Francis Bacon without trying to explain him.
Maybury’s film is based on Daniel Farsen’s 1993 biography The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon. Farsen was a friend of Bacon’s and a Colony Room regular, and that shows. The viewer definitely has this fly-on-the-wall perspective through out the film. Even though it all plays out like some relentless Greek tragedy, it simultaneously feels mythic and true to life. The cast is excellent as well, with Derek Jacobi as Bacon, and Daniel Craig playing George Dyer. Of course, I could go on and on about the sets, the cinematography, and how Maybury infused Bacon’s own imagery and obsession with confined spaces into key scenes, but such things are better viewed than described.
A warning to the conventional or faint of heart, this film contains moments of amorality, homoeroticism, nudity, sadomasochism, disturbing dream sequences, suicide, and down right crass behavior. But it’s a film about Francis Bacon, the man who painted a screaming Pope flanked by sides of beef, unicorns and rainbows are not to be expected. It is of course, all artfully put together.
An excellent companion to this film is The Brutality of Fact by British art critic, David Sylvester. It’s a collection of transcribed interviews between Bacon and Sylvester spanning from 1962 -1986. These interviews focus mainly on his work, techniques and ideas about art. It’s a frank discussion, in Bacon’s own words, about his obsession with images and his work habits. So if you care to know more about Francis Bacon, especially his work, it’s well worth the read.
-Michelle Melancon, Bindery Specialist (Baking with Medusa at Blogspot)