Berlinale: Final Portrait

Final Portrait

Directed by Stanley Tucci
Starring Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clémence Poésy, Tony Shalhoub, James Faulkner and Sylvie Testud

by Laura Patricia Jones

Based on the true story of Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) inviting young American critic James Lord (Armie Hammer) to sit and have his portrait painted by him in Paris in 1964, Final Portrait is a comedy by Stanley Tucci inspired by Lord’s memoirs of the calamity.

After Lord was told that the portrait would take no more than a few hours to paint, Giacometti states he needs a few more days, days which turn into weeks and cause a series of expensive cancellations and flight changes for Lord. Giacometti overpaints and continually starts his work again, expressing that art can never be finished. Fearing he may be there forever, Lord attempts to find ways to convince Giacometti to finish his work. A situation that begins to feel like a cross between a bromance and a relay race.

Completing the circle of this farce is Giacometti’s long-suffering wife Annette (Sylvie Testude), Caroline (Clémence Poésy) a prostitute who has becomes both Giacometti’s muse and obsession, and Diego (Tony Shalhoub) Giacometti’s brother and assistant.

What I should probably confess before launching to criticize Final Portrait is that parts of it (including a highly dramatic scene between Giacometti and his wife) were spoken in French and the subtitles were in German so I could have missed something highly poignant and not realised it. But, I think I got the gist and Tucci’s script certainly manages to keep you engaged even if by the end of it, you too end up feeling like you’ve been the subject sitting for a portrait for weeks (at least I did).

There isn’t a weak link in the cast and though shot mainly in greys, the characters and humour bring colour to the screen. Special points to Geoffrey Rush whose characterisation of the despairing strop-frequenting-artist is a pleasure to watch.




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