In 1964, while on a short trip to Paris, the American writer and art-lover James Lord (Armie Hammer) is asked by his friend, the world-renowned artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), to sit for a portrait. The process, Giacometti assures Lord, will take only a few days. Flattered and intrigued, Lord agrees. So begins not only the story of an offbeat friendship, but, seen through the eyes of Lord, an insight into the beauty, frustration, profundity and, at times, downright chaos of the artistic process. FINAL PORTRAIT is a portrait of a genius, and of a friendship between two men who are utterly different, yet increasingly bonded through a single, ever-evolving act of creativity. It is a film which shines a light on the artistic process itself, by turns exhilarating, exasperating and bewildering, questioning whether the gift of a great artist is a blessing or a curse.
The film had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 11, 2017. See more »
In 1964, I was a young writer living in Paris. I had written a few articles about Alberto Giacometti, who was one of the most accomplished and respected artists of his generation. I had become good friends with Giacometti and his brother, Diego. And one day, after an exhibition, he asked me to sit for a portrait. He told me it would take no longer than two to three hours. An afternoon at the most.
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Although in the '60's I knew famous artists could live in hovels, I never imagined the way Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), the famous sculptor/painter, lived. In Final Portrait, his grimy Parisian first-floor apartment is strewn with famous spindly-limbed sculptures amid broken pottery and glass with an easel on which he paints a portrait of his friend, James Lord (Armie Hammer).
I am usually critical of stories about painters because these biopics rarely give insight into the artistic process (Girl with a Pearl Earring, Frida, and Pollock among my favorites, but disappointing that way), concentrating rather on the dynamic personal life. However, Final Portrait lets us sit with his subject and ingest the cranky chaos that has already bred world-wide fame.
While his wife Annette Arm (Sylvie Testud), is in attendance, the artist carries on at length with a delightful prostitute, Caroline (Clemence Poesy), goes to dives, disrespects money, chain smokes, and generally acts like the Bohemian he is.
Such seems the stereotype, but writer/director Stanley Tucci deftly adapts Lord's book, A Giacometti Portrait, to let us experience the disarray of the process that takes weeks. The artist is disappointed multiple times, starts over, yet really believes no portrait is ever finished.
Alberto Giacometti keeps us hoping that another day of Lord's sitting will produce a result, yet another day comes and goes into weeks. Lord, a writer, is remarkably patient as we all know genius will not be hurried. When it's over, however, you can bet on its being world-class.
Rush is charming as the disheveled genius, while Hammer is handsome, as always, and subdued in the artist's presence. I was not bored for a second because I felt like a visitor witnessing the workings of chaotic brilliance, a true friendship, and the essence of Parisian artistic life.
Sit back and enjoy an artist at work. It may seem slow, but it's not.
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