The inimitable Polish-Italian is a real character shown as self-aware of both his public persona and the delicate balancing act he needs to maintain in order to remain at the top of his profession. There is certainly campness on display here - tinsel-fringed buckets of it, in fact - but the film itself never indulges in the frivolities too deeply. As his relationship with the pianist transforms first Thorson's life and then his physical appearance through a series of operations, we see them as a genuinely loving couple. However, things start to go wrong as Thorson's addiction issues comes to the fore and Liberace's eye begins to wander in search of the next young thing.
Soderbergh has once again assembled a brilliant ensemble cast for Behind the Candelabra, all of whom are almost unrecognisable in their respective roles: Dan Aykroyd as Liberace's lawyer; Scott Bakula as Thorson's old lover; and Debbie Reynolds as Lib's mother, Frances. Damon is quietly marvellous and utterly believable as the fresh-faced ingénue who, after the fun times get to fast, gradually disintegrates. But it's undoubtedly Douglas who will get the accolades for a character portrait that eschews the temptations of pastiche to become moving amidst what Lib calls 'the palatial kitsch'.
This review was originally published on 21 May, 2012, as part of our Cannes Film Festival coverage.