SXSW 2018 Review: FINAL PORTRAIT

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

Stanley Tucci’s fifth feature film as a writer/director details writer James Lord’s experiences in Paris as a model for artist Alberto Giacometti’s last painting.  Based on Lord’s memoir, “A Giacometti Portrait,” Tucci offers a mildly entertaining and interesting glimpse of an artist at work and the anarchic life he led.  Still, this small portrait feels somewhat incomplete, and Tucci’s film left me wanting to know more about the background of the artist and the friendship he shared with James Lord who was honored to be a subject for one of his paintings.

Armie Hammer stars as Lord, an American critic who happens to run into his old friend Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) in Paris.  After this chance encounter, the painter and sculptor asks Lord to pose for an oil painting.  Though the artist promises that the work won’t take long, Alberto’s chaotic life and seemingly unstructured way of working delays things much longer than Lord had anticipated.  During his time with Giacometti, Lord gets to witness some interesting and surprising aspects of the artist’s private life.

Tucci’s film should definitely spark an interest in the life and work of Alberto Giacometti (for those unfamiliar with him), but those same people will probably feel let down that the scope of the film was so limited.  Though Alberto Giacometti has much in common with other idiosyncratic and obsessive artists, he struck me as a visionary genius who probably wasn’t appreciated enough during his time.  I would have preferred to see a more comprehensive examination of the artist instead of this brief and often redundant reenactment of these weeks that Lord shared with the artist.  The development of Giacometti as a character, as well as the relationship with Lord is definitely lacking.

Still, the performances by both Hammer and Rush definitely helped keep me engaged in the film and entertained by the artist’s amusing antics, as well as Lord’s reactions to them.  I wouldn’t exactly call these turns award worthy, but they are definitely very good.  Rush is perfectly cast as the wild-haired and disheveled artist who can turn on a warm and charming personality, but could also completely turn cold and serious while working.  Hammer also is perfect as the more debonair and worldly critic James Lord.  The movie can also boast great work by Clémence Poésy, James Faulkner, Tony Shaloub, and Sylvie Testud.  

And though the film feels constrained by what I perceive is Tucci’s faithfulness to the source material, I still think it is a solid film for the talented actor/filmmaker.  Those quite knowledgeable about the artist and his work will probably dislike the limitations of this movie.  However, those unfamiliar with the artist (like me) will certainly find some enjoyment in this interesting portrait of a fascinating artist.  I know that this biopic has piqued my interest in who Alberto Giacometti was and the other great works of art he created.

 

 

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