Final Portrait – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

October 2, 2017 by Roz Tarszisz
Read on for article

When American writer and art-lover James Lord (Armie Hammer) is asked by his friend, the world-famous artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), to sit for a portrait, he accepts.

The process, Giacometti assures Lord, will take only a few days. It is a great honour to be asked and Lord relishes the prospect but he is only in Paris for a few more days before flying home.

Giacometti works in a big cluttered studio, adjacent to his living quarters. There are unfinished sculptures scattered about. From the start he tells Lord that he will never be able to paint him as he sees him and that it is impossible to finish a portrait. Lord reminds him that he has a flight to catch.

The artist’s much younger wife Annette (Sylvie Testud) looks unhappy in their open marriage. His brother Diego (Tony Shalhoub) works upstairs in his own studio and views proceedings with the look of a man who has seen it all before.

Artist and sitter are a study in contrasts. Lord is prim and proper compared to the artist who is a shambolic mess.  As the few days are continually stretched out, Lord has to rebook his flight – several times – which was not so easy to do back in 1964.

Being a temporary part of Giacometti’s entourage, Lord gets a first-hand taste of the creative life as he watches him work on a sculpture for a few minutes or stare at the portrait and grumble, complaining that he cannot finish it.  Giacometti’s muse and lover, Caroline (Clémence Poésy), a prostitute, might turn up and the two disappear.

When artist and sitter go into a local restaurant, food and drink rapidly appear in front of Giacometti without him having to ask for a thing. He bolts it all down and charges off.  He may be an unconventional artist but he likes some things to remain constant.

The portrait seems to be taking forever – talk about watching paint dry – and I marvelled at the subject’s patience as the disgruntled perfectionist is constantly repainting it. It takes some cunning on Lord’s part before he can finally get away but it’s the process that is so fascinating.

There’s an amusing scene where Caroline’s pimp demands more money for her services, whether for sex or modelling, and Giacometti insists on giving him more than he asks for.

Rush gives an engrossing performance as the insecure and demanding artist while Hammer is believable as his conventional friend and patient subject. Director Stanley Tucci has drawn his own portrait to bring this slice of artistic life to the screen.

3.5/5    90mins   Rated M  Released 5 October

Stars Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clemence Poesy, Tony Shalhoub, Sylvie Testud

Directed and written by Stanley Tucci

Adapted from a memoir written by James Lord A Giacometti  Portrait

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