Biographical account of the complicated love life of celebrated artist Francis Bacon.
John Maybury isn't a director. He's a filmmaker and an artist. His earliest efforts were shot on Super-8 at art school, before Derek Jarman showed him "what grown-up filmmaking was all about". You'll probably have seen a handful of his music videos, including Sinead O'Connor's Nothing Compares 2 U. But pieces like Man To Man and Remembrance Of Things Fast tend to get shown at rarified arthouses or indulgent galleries rather than multiplexes.
So it's a shame that having reached the dizzy heights of featuredom, this talented individual should have made such an unsatisfactory job of this Study For A Portrait Of Francis Bacon.
On the day Francis Bacon (Jacobi) is accorded a retrospective at the prestigious Grand Palais in Paris, his lover, George Dyer (Craig) tops himself with a cocktail of pills and booze in their hotel room. Seven years earlier, Dyer had dropped in through the skylight of Bacon's studio and opted for a night of passion with his captor rather than face arrest. But Bacon's love of Dyer's amorality and innocence (and his delight in his S&M techniques) soon turned to disdain as the East End boy failed to cut the mustard with Bacon's cronies at Soho's celebrated Colony Room.
There's no denying that Maybury is an imagist of considerable vision and control. His use of distorting lenses, abrupt, angular close-ups, reflective surfaces and split-screen devices to convey both the couple's dislocated world and the style of Bacon's painting is bold and inspired. Yet dramatically the film is less successful.
Jacobi gives a remarkable physical impersonation and Craig is a model of bemused despair. But the vignette structure prevents the story gaining momentum, while the dialogue is far too stylised.
As an exhibit, this is easy to admire, but it's too self-conscious to be captivating cinema.