The formidable Geoffrey Rush stars as the formidable Alberto Giacometti, and the talented Armie Hammer as the talented James Lord, who comes to sit for a painting in Paris, in Giacometti’s studio.
Unsurprisingly for those who have seen Rush before in The King’s Speech (and in the underrated The Best Offer), Rush carries the film’s weight with his presence. He immerses himself in the character; his absolutely unique moroseness seethes from his tired eyes. What’s more is his striking resemblance to Giacometti himself, making him a match for the role that is almost impossible to believe. Probably the best scene is the one in which Giacometti fights with his wife, played by the credible and natural Sylvie Testud. It is a scene well worth watching itself, at once hilarious and one that inspires sympathy, a good understanding of the French spirit. We’ll note Hammer for communicating calm and patience that are perhaps rare through a simple look: the movie is about looks, full of meaning. The character of Caroline less convinced me, played by Clémence Poésy, who is more or less one-dimensional as the a love interest that serves no more purpose than being just that. Still, a scene between her and Giacometti, simply looking at each other, truly speaks in itself.
A great quality of the film, and which would indeed be impossible to neglect given the subject matter, is the cinematography. Micro-shots, like one of Giacometti’s painting hand, slightly dirty, attest to the painter’s sensibility. To be included in that judgement are the shots of Paris: in less conventionally shot corners, like the cemetery, we get a feeling of actually living in the city for a while (try not to dwell too much on the fact that it was actually filmed in London). The entire film seems to be seen through greenish toned hues, which gives it a singular feeling and is in fact quite pervasive: in my mind’s eye, I see the film through its colours, its sallow windowpanes and rain.
What is most to be gained from Final Portrait is perhaps the feeling of revelation, both for Lord and for us: understanding the artist. The film creates no myths around Giacometti; he is no celebrity, though a quintessential artist. It is a surprise to learn that an artist that is now so revered could have been so doubtful of his own ability, so pessimistic. The film is a testimony to inner turmoil, to the desire for perfection, to the fever for creation. ‘I think death must be the most fascinating experience’, he remarks. Indeed.
Dir: Stanley Tucci
Scr: Stanley Tucci
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clémence Poésy, Tony Shalhoub, James Faulkner, Sylvie Testud
DOP: Danny Cohen
Run-time: 90 mins
Final Portrait is available on DVD and Digital now.