Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom/France/Japan, 1998. BBC Films, British Film Institute, Arts Council of England, Première Heure, Uplink, Partners In Crime, State. Screenplay by John Maybury. Cinematography by John Mathieson. Produced by Chiara Menage. Music by Ryûichi Sakamoto. Production Design by Alan MacDonald. Costume Design by Annie Symons. Film Editing by Daniel Goddard.
Absorbing and sometimes shocking look at the love affair between sixties painter Francis Bacon (Derek Jacobi) and petty thief George Dyer (Daniel Craig). John Maybury, previously assistant to late filmmaker Derek Jarman, makes a very strong debut as director of this colourful film; it’s a tough job considering that Bacon’s estate refused permission to show any of his original paintings in it (apparently they were not amused by Maybury’s not flinching from Bacon’s sadomasochistic practices), thus leaving him with the task of creating a portrait of the artist without the art. For some, this will be an infuriating denial along the lines of Agnieszka Holland’s tepid Total Eclipse, but the focus on the dynamic relationship between the two main characters makes it interesting enough as drama. It all starts when Dyer falls through Bacon’s roof in an attempt to burglarize his home and, immediately interested, Bacon tells the man to get undressed, enter his bed, and then take whatever he wants (Dyer does, and never leaves). Tilda Swinton, with scraggly makeup and bad teeth, constantly filmed through a skewed lens to create the feeling of looking at the scene through the bottom of a bottle, is a horrific delight as one of Bacon’s oddball drinking buddies and fellow artist Muriel Belcher.