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Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: Liberace launches film festival

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This year's International Film Festival kicked off in an appropriately resplendent fashion last night with the Liberace film Behind The Candelabra.

Some may have questioned the selection of the film for the Gala Opening Night screening, considering it was produced for American cable television. But Behind The Candelabra went down like gangbusters, its shimmering glamour matched only by that of The Civic itself.

Despite its small screen origins, the film has enjoyed a theatrical release in Europe and played film festivals the world over. There may be slightly more close-ups than we usually see in a Steven Soderbergh film, but it's an uncompromisingly cinematic experience overall, and one that seemed right at home in the majestic Civic.

Channeling the same sexual intensity that fueled two decades of cinema's most defiantly red-blooded heterosexuals into his performance as Mr Showmanship, Michael Douglas is a revelation. Equal parts playful, petty and heartfelt, his Liberace is an empathetic hoot.

Matt Damon plays Scott Thorson, who was Liberace's much younger lover in the late '70s and early '80s, when this film takes place. The film is based on Thorson's book about his time with the aging entertainer, and Damon is great as the audience's proxy.

The decision to focus on a short section of Liberace's life instead trying to cover everything helps the film circumvent the fatal "greatest hits" nature of most biopics.

Behind the Candelabra is deeply interested in what made Liberace tick, but stops short of making any definitive judgements about the man, except perhaps that he had amazing taste in clothes.

Indeed, the costumes here are almost worth seeing the film for alone. Factor in the ornate furnishings and sparkly jewellery aswell, and anyone drawn to Liberace more for his bling than his music will be more than satisfied.

His sense of showmanship comes through loud and clear as well, and a lot of effort has been made to make the film's performance scenes as big and impressive as possible.

But the craziest and most fascinating aspect of the film is all the plastic surgery. As Liberace's enabler surgeon, Rob Lowe gives a performance almost as memorable as Douglas' - his macabre appearance making for an instantly iconic horror movie face.

The film mines much uneasy humour out of the plastic surgery moments, and is just as happy to elicit endless jokes from Liberace's campiness. But it's never mean-spirited, and the final portrait painted is a nuanced one.

Just like he did in 2009's The Informer!, Steven Soderbergh has filled out the edges of his film with stand-up comedians and in supporting roles. Paul Reiser, Mike O'Malley, David Koechner, Tom Papa and Dan Ackroyd all show up. This sort of casting is amusing, and it helps the film stay light on its feet.

Behind The Candelabra is screening once more, this coming Monday afternoon at 3.30pm at The Civic. So if you like what you've read here, be sure and check it out.

Up next for me in the film festival is the Alfred Hitchcock classic North By Northwest, which is going to be real treat to see on the big screen. Then tonight is the big daddy of them all - Goblin plays Suspiria Live. That is going to be EPIC.

Look out for further reviews in this space as the film festival progresses.

* Were you at Behind The Candelabra? Dig? What are you seeing? Comment Below!

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