Behind The Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover Scott Thorson, has debuted at Cannes to critical acclaim.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the film – described as being “super-camp and hyper-kitsch” - recounts the real life love affair between the gay pianist, the highest paid entertainer of his era, and Thorson.
It also features stars such as Debbie Reynolds as Liberace’s mother and Rob Lowe as a plastic surgeon.
Candelabra was screened in competition at the Cannes Festival in France on Tuesday morning and saw Douglas and Damon at the premiere to promote the film.
In its review, The Telegraph said that it was an “exceptional film” and that Douglas’ performance as the camp Liberace was “one of the greatest” of his career.
“As a black comedy, and as a portrait of celebrity loneliness, Behind the Candelabra is very stylish and effective, and Damon and Douglas give supremely entertaining performances,” commented The Guardian.
Candelabra could be the Oscar-winning Soderbergh’s last film. The director, known for acclaimed hits such as Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven and Magic Mike, has said that he is retiring from film-making.
He previously expressed his frustration with the Hollywood system and revealed that he couldn’t get any studio to back Candelabra because it was deemed “too gay”, forcing him to take the project to the HBO television network.
At a press conference in Cannes after the screening, Soderbergh spoke on the issue of gay rights.
“Fifty years ago, we didn’t even have the Civil Rights Act in the United States – now of course it’s part of our DNA. So when this issue comes up, of equal rights for gays, I always think, I’m hoping, 50 years from now, we’re going to be looking back on this and wonder why this was even a debate, and what took so long,” he said.
“We’re getting there, it’s all I think moving in the right direction. But to be honest… in making the film, the socio-political aspect wasn’t really on my mind, I was focused on this relationship and trying to make this relationship as believable and realistic as we could.”
In a recent interview with Playboy, Damon spoke about the film, commenting: “These two men were deeply in love and in a real relationship – “a marriage” -”long before there was gay marriage. That’s not an insignificant thing. The script is beautiful and relatable.”
When asked at the Cannes press conference about his sex scenes in the movie with his co-star, Damon quipped: “In terms of being in bed with Michael Douglas, I now have things in common with Sharon Stone and Glenn Close. We can all now go out and trade stories.”
In 1982, Thorson filed a $113 million lawsuit against Liberace, who denied being gay until he died. They settled out of court in 1986.
He reconciled with Liberace just before the entertainer’s death in 1987 and went on to write the tell-all book Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace, on which the film is based.
While the film will only be shown on television in the US, it will be released to cinemas in other countries, including South Africa at the end of September.