Final Portrait

By adults for adults, a charming labour of love.

6b1f8cd0ba539c061387e18ed33087a514627120* * * (out of five)

This modest, extremely charming labour of great love from writer/director Stanley Tucci is certainly not intended for anyone who simply can’t wait for the next Transformers. But if you’re interested in Paris, art, the 1960s or any combination, it may be right up your alley.

Without looking it up, I’m going to bet the screenplay was based on a New Yorker article, or, at a pinch, one in Vanity Fair.* It’s certainly a true story, written by James Lord (Arnie Hammer), telling of his time posing for a painted portrait by Alberto Giacometti, who was most revered – and well known – for his elongated, spindly and highly evocative sculptures. Giacometti is played by Geoffrey Rush, adding to his impressive body of real-life subjects, in the patented Rush style – eccentric, twitchy, arms and hands flapping weirdly below the belt – which may be familiar, but is Rush’s alone, and is usually welcome and suitable, as it is here.

Giacometti’s famous studio in Paris is recreated with utmost precision in all its dusty, monochromatic, chaotic glory, unfinished sculptures standing around like spooky guests at a very surreal cocktail party. Occasionally artist and subject will venture out, to a cafe, bistro or for a walk in the local cemetery. All will make you want to book a ticket – and if possible, a time machine – to Paris, stat.

The film has the easy-going, thoroughly tasteful and polite generosity of New Yorker profiles, eschewing conflict for character. The only real drama involves Lord having to constantly delay his return to New York because Giacometti keeps prolonging the process. Seen from our perspective today – and seeing the lovely film that has resulted – it feels like a very first-world problem. Lord, essentially, has an inspiring, fascinating and occasionally frustrating time with Giacometti, as do we.

* I lost my bet. James Lord actually wrote a book, A Giacometti Portrait.

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