Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clemence Poesy, Tony Shalhoub
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“…a subtle and low-key affair about the great Swiss-Italian artist Alberto Giacometti.”
Sitting through films about the artistic process can feel like, well, watching the paint dry. Final Portrait isn’t boring, but nor is it ever riveting – though to be fair it’s a subtle and low-key affair in which excitement was presumably not the idea. The setting is Paris in 1964, and American writer and aesthete James Lord (Armie Hammer) is sitting for a portrait by the great Swiss-Italian artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush).
Giacometti is initially gruff and laconic, though he becomes steadily more expansive as time goes on. He seems to exist in a state of permanent dissatisfaction and frustration, at least where his art is concerned, and tinkers with, demolishes and re-starts the painting so often that the patient Mr. Lord has to keep delaying his flight back to New York. You start to wonder how such a perfectionist ever managed to complete anything, and indeed from Giacometti’s own point of view he didn’t: all his work was “unfinished”. The term ‘temperamental artist’ scarcely begins to encompass his difficult and selfish personality as depicted here, though he’s also shown being agreeably warm and vivacious.
The acting in Final Portrait is fine, and particularly so on the part of Geoffrey Rush – always a given – and of Tony Shalhoub as Alberto’s quietly empathetic brother Diego. And there’s the occasional memorable aphorism (“What better breeding ground for doubt than success?”), plus some tantalisingly brief references to Giacometti’s relationships with other creative giants. But overall this is a moderately substantial movie, and rather anti-climactic.