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John Bowles is a respected tv presenter, theatre and concert performer.

Behind The Candelabra – Soderbergh’s last film?

Liberace played by Michael Douglas in Behind The Candelabra

Liberace played by Michael Douglas.

It’s incredible that Steven Soderbergh’s Behind The Candelabra ever got made.  He deserves an academy award just for getting this film up.  He was unable to obtain backing from a major hollywood studio, HBO stepped in, and so, while it is opening in cinemas all over the world, in the US it is making it’s premiere on television.  It is interesting to note that it was not available for consideration by the Oscars.

Steven Soderbergh decided to make this biopic, despite it centering on a largely unsympathetic character who has mostly faded from our consciousness, a gay love story full of graphic gay intimacy, with a small budget and no hollywood studio backing; and thank God he did.  It is an interesting story with a good script (Richard La Gravanese).  I enjoyed this film very much, not just because Mr Soderbergh knows what he is doing, but because it is something different among the list of movies on offer.

Michael Douglas plays Liberace and Matt Damon plays his lover Scott Thorson and their performances are wonderful; finding real depth amongst the kitsch and opulence of the Las Vegas star’s extravagant lifestyle.  The relationship between them is totally believable, with touching moments of intimacy, and surprising depth when required.

People I have spoken to have shown interest in seeing this film but I get the feeling that the film’s promotional short has left them with the impression that it is camp and funny.  While  I may have laughed out loud a couple of times, this film is not a comedy, and it is certainly not camp (once you look past the mink coats, gilt furniture and diamond rings).  The performances are straight down the line, which is why it is as effective as it is.  There are fine performances all-round from the supporting cast, led by Dan Aykroyd (Liberace’s manager) and Scott Bakula, and dotted with cameos from Rob Lowe (the plastic surgeon), an unrecognisable Debbie Reynolds (Liberace’s mother), Bruce Ramsay, Cheyenne Jackson and Paul Reiser (Scott’s attorney).

Liberace may have been the original “constructed” celebrity being known more for his fame than his talent.  We live in a world now filled with less interesting characters, possessing a lot less talent, but gaining a great deal more celebrity.  And so it is fascinating to look back to a very different time that was… actually, not so long ago.

Special mention must go to the Howard Cummings (Prod. Design), Patrick M. Sullivan Jnr (Supervising Art Director) and Barbara Munch (Set Decoration).  And it is interesting to note that the wonderful Marvin Hamlisch wrote the original music.  Could this have been his last score, in an extraordinary career, before his recent death?

Michael Douglas & Matt Damon in a scene from Behind The Candelabra.

Michael Douglas & Matt Damon in a scene from Behind The Candelabra.

5 comments on “Behind The Candelabra – Soderbergh’s last film?

  1. Rick Ireland
    June 21, 2013

    Great review, John! I’m looking forward to seeing this film.

  2. Peter and Sacha
    June 21, 2013

    I’m having hassles with Windows Live Mail.

  3. bdedgar
    June 21, 2013

    I saw Lee Liberace in Las Vegas doing his act and working a cheering crowd in one of those vast showrooms. “You like my Diamonds??? You should you paid for them! Remember that Bank I used to push a wheelbarrow to? I bought it!” And so it went on. White Rolls Royce Flying on wires, the lot But he could play the piano very well, and was a showman par excellence he knew how to work his market. Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2013 10:43:35 +0000 To: blairedgar@hotmail.com

  4. Suzanne Bowles
    June 22, 2013

    This sounds great – I;d like to see this x

  5. Peter Keogh
    August 13, 2013

    I agree with your summation John. I stayed in Palm Springs a month or so after his death with his neighbours who were also his best friends – Vince and Ken. They took us on a tour of the house which was stunning but also very sad. Debbie was one of his best friends and actually knew his Mum. She told me that she adored him and felt that the film was fairly accurate – however she did NOT like Scott!

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