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Love is the Devil aka "Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon" [Blu-ray]
(John Maybury, 1998)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
Video: Strand Releasing
Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 24,859,531,656 bytes
Feature Size: 23,946,033,024 bytes
Video Bitrate: 31.02 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: January 20th, 2015
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1734 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1734 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps (with optional English subtitles)
•Audio Commentary track with director John Maybury and actor Derek Jacobi
• Original Theatrical Trailer (2:12)
Description:This British biographical drama probes the life of painter Francis Bacon (1909-1992), critically acclaimed as the outstanding British painter of the latter half of the 20th Century. This unsympathetic portrait of Bacon (Derek Jacobi) begins when George Dyer (Daniel Craig), a small-time criminal from working-class East End environs, drops through a skylight to rob Bacon's studio -- and is ordered into bed by Bacon. The two become a familiar couple at Bacon's hangout, the Colony Room in Soho. Bacon's sexual interests lean toward S&M, but as the cruel Bacon loses interest in Dyer and begins to look elsewhere, the couple splits. Left to his own devices, Dyer turns to drugs and alcohol -- and a tragic suicide. Visual grotesqueries and a trancelike Ryuichi Sakamoto music score capture the essence of Bacon's work (although paintings by Bacon are not seen onscreen here). The film is told in the form of a flashback from Bacon's successful 1971 retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris to a period in the mid-'60s. Bacon biographer Daniel Farson (The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon) served as consultant on the film.
Maybury's film about Francis Bacon (Jacobi) focuses on the slow but inexorable downward spiral of his seven-year relationship with his lover, model and muse George Dyer (Craig), a smalltime villain whom the painter first met burgling his house. It's the tale of a charged but uncomfortable encounter, not only between two very different personalities, but between two different (but both very English) worlds: the arty, boozy Soho set and, ironically rather less amoral and more sympathetic, the East End criminal fraternity. At its heart is a raw, painful, even cruel love affair based on dominance, submission, snobbery and sadism, which is brought vividly to life by images often (but never excessively) reminiscent of Bacon's paintings. The performances are terrific, with Jacobi particularly astonishing as Bacon.
"Love Is the Devil," the new film by John Maybury, takes me at last up those stairs, and back in time to the decades when Francis Bacon presided over a scruffy roomful of bohemians--some rich, some poor, some gay, some straight, all drunks. The movie is loosely inspired by Farson's The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, which documents the life of the greatest modern English painter as a dour and bitter ordeal, the bitchiness relieved intermittently by a good vintage and the Dover sole at Wheeler's. (Bacon liked a crowd at lunch and didn't mind picking up the check.)
To look at a Francis Bacon painting is to get a good idea of the man who painted it. In an era of Abstract Expressionism, he defiantly painted the figure, because he wanted there to be no mistake: His subject was the human body seen in anguish and ugliness. Flesh clung to the bones of his models like dough slapped on by a careless god. His faces were often distorted into grimaces of pain or despair. His subjects looked like mutations, their flesh melting from radiation or self-loathing. His color sense was uncanny, his draftsmanship was powerful and unmistakable, his art gave an overwhelming sense of the artist.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The highly emotional Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon has arrived Blu-ray from Strand Releasing in the US. This is single-layered with a very high bitrate and I expect this is an excellent representation of the textured theatrical appearance from 1998. There is a pleasing tightness and depth - as well as a thick style-infused texture to some of the obtuse visuals that intentionally appear distorted. Love is the Devil is filled with unusual shots augmenting the story with inventive cinematography. This Blu-ray seems to do its job in the video presentation, although, obviously, not a tight, pristine original presentation. I expect it is supposed to look exactly this way.
NOTE: Bjorn tells us in email "...one thing I noticed on the new Strand BD, which overall is the best home video presentation to date, is that in the scene around 31:40 where Bacon brushes his teeth with Vim that on the first shot of him there appears to be a really obvious color correction power window on his face - it has straight edges so it's really obvious. This disappears on the subsequent cuts to the same shot in the scene." (thanks Bjorn!)
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Audio is transferred via a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1734 kbps. It's fairly passive but we get an interesting score by Ryűichi Sakamoto (Bernardo Bertolucci's The Sheltering Sky and The Last Emperor and Oshima Nagisa's Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence) that sounds very impacting at times. There are some minor effects with depth via the lossless. There are optional English subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE - playable worldwide.
We get the audio commentary track with director John Maybury and actor Derek Jacobi (there are optional English subtitles) also found on the BFI DVD from 2008 - but it still has great value. It's fairly laid-back reminiscing on budgeting, a little on Daniel Craig. There is also a trailer.
January 14th, 2015
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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