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Daniel Craig plays gay and bares all in this arty 90s flick

Before Daniel Craig was James Bond, he played the tormented lover of gay British artist Francis Bacon.

If you’ve never heard of the 1998 biopic Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon, you’re forgiven: it took my friend and I sorting through Kanopy’s many gay offerings to find this forgotten gem. Starring the legendary gay actor Derek Jacobi as Bacon himself, the film doesn’t take a traditional look at the artist’s life but instead spends its time luxuriating in his sick, sad world—the dingy studio apartment he shares with his lover George Dyer (Craig), the local pub where he goes to bitch and moan with all his friends, a few exhibitions in Paris and America. The result is a creative attempt at understanding Bacon through his relationships, rather than his artwork—which, for obvious copyright reasons, couldn’t be shown.

But the best thing about Love is the Devil isn’t its interpretation of Bacon: what wins you over, ultimately, is the focus on his doomed boyfriend George Dyer. When Dyer is caught breaking into Bacon’s apartment, Bacon is completely unperturbed. He suggests that the petty thief take off his clothes and go to bed with him, and so he does.

The affair begins, and it doesn’t take long for it to go completely off the rails. At first a muse for Bacon, Dyer quickly gives into his addictions (heroin, uppers) in the fact of Bacon’s endless snippy remarks. And while the film is ostensibly about Bacon and his gay genius, all we’re left with is a sense of how badly he used a young man who came to him out of the cold, already badly hurt by an unfeeling world.

All of this might make you think that Love is the Devil is something of a downer—but au contraire. There’s one very important scene in this film that can only be described as inspiring and uplifting, and it is the scene in which we get to see Daniel Craig naked, with his full junk on display. Yes, you heard me. In this, his breakthrough role, Craig not only plays a gay man, he shows us everything he’s got.

Even without the c*ck shot, it’s easy to see why this film catapulted Daniel Craig to superstardom. As George Dyer, Craig is wounded, violent, conflicted, and ultimately far more sympathetic than his boyfriend and tormenter. The deeper Dyer falls into codependency, the worse things become for him, culminating in his tragic end in a Paris hotel room after he mixes wine and pills for the last time.

In the past few years, Craig has become an increasing object of speculation as to sexuality. With the reveal that his Knives Out character Benoit Blanc is canon gay, as well as his role in the upcoming Luca Guadagnino film Queer, it’s feeling like Craig’s choice of roles are skewing much queerer than before. Is Craig getting back to his Indie roots, or is he trying to tell us something. Perhaps both?

Who can say. The only thing we know for sure is that Craig’s performance in Love is the Devil is the stuff of spank bank legend.

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