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the marvelous british actor derek jacobi stars in writer and director john maybury's love is the devil about the popular modern artist francis bacon .
as always , jacobi's acting is impeccable , but the movie tries hard and succeeds at being unentertaining and opaque .
the movie convincingly argues that francis , played by jacobi , was a completely despicable and vain individual , but it never provides any insight into his work or any motivation for his attitude .
when interviewed by a fawning talk show host , francis calls his style " chance brushstrokes . "
starting with a burglary of francis's flat , the film uses loud sound effects that sound like they were lifted from a cheap horror movie .
the camera shots are heavy on the avant-garde angles -- lots of wide-angle close-ups and distorted shots filmed through colored-glass reflections .
the director is much more interested in filmmaking style than in the substance of the story with the result being a sterile examination of a lonely and vain man .
daniel craig , in a lifeless performance , plays the burglar and boxer , george dyer .
when francis lays eyes on him after the break-in , francis promises not to call the police if he'll stay for sex .
he stays for the entire movie but never respects the man with whom he shares a bed .
he thinks that francis's paintings have " no bloody use , " and the movie presents no counterargument .
writer maybury barely outlines francis's character , and george and the rest of the supporting cast remain a complete enigma .
we learn little of george other than francis's reason for liking him -- george's " amorality and innocence . "
francis's love of sadomasochism is shown early and often .
" boxing is such a marvelous aperitif for sex , " he reflects to george on the way to watch a boxing match .
as the fighter's head is sliced open with a heavy blow , the camera cuts to a gleeful francis whose own head is soaked by the flying blood .
francis appears to be in complete ecstasy .
another of francis's favorite activities is viewing old movies of atrocities .
as the carnage mounts , we witness an orgasmically happy francis in the audience .
in a film that tries obsessively to shock , one dream sequence portrays a family in a car accident .
francis's mind slowly examines every bloody limb of the mother , the father , and the boy .
sometimes the script throws us tidbits of francis's wisdom which illuminate little while merely sounding insightful .
( " i'm optimistic by nature .
i'm optimistic about nothing . "
" loneliness is my only true companion . " )
we learn more details about francis's makeup techniques than about the man himself .
he prefers shoe polish for his hair and sink cleaning powder for his teeth .
full of metaphorical interpretations , the film's best scene occurs late one night when george has to get up to go to the bathroom .
mistaking francis's picture of a toilet for the genuine article , he urinates on it and then crawls back into bed contentedly .
like a parody of a bad art house movie , love is the devil has horrid characters filmed bizarrely and confusingly by a director who is much more interested in technique than storytelling .
by the end , the audience hasn't learned any more than it could have in a three-minute sketch .
love is the devil runs 1 : 30 .
the film is not rated but should be considered nc-17 for violence , profanity , graphic sex , nudity and sadomasochism and is unacceptable for most teenagers .
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