By Adam Ray Palmer
After 10 years of searching for funding, Stanley Tucci brings his new film Final Portrait to the Berlinale out of competition.
As Tucci takes to the director’s chair, his acting talent includes Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clémence Poésy and Tony Shalhoub.
Billed as one of the ‘big-hitters’ here in Berlin, would it live up to hype?
Final Portrait follows Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti’s (Geoffrey Rush) final two years as he interacts with the remaining important people in his life; his wife Anette (Sylvie Testud), his younger brother Diego (Tony Shalhoub), his New York critic friend James Lord (Armie Hammer) and his prostitute lover and muse, Caroline (Clémence Poésy).
It is based on the true story of how Alberto Giacometti invited the young American critic and influential admirer James Lord to sit for him in Paris in 1964. The biographical comedy is adapted by Stanley Tucci from Lord’s memoir of the two weeks he spent with Alberto.
This comprehensively-made 90-minute film immediately starts with the agreement between Giacometti and Lord that James would sit for a few hours so Alberto could paint his portrait. What ensures is an overly-long stay for James as Giacometti announces he needs a few more days, and then another week; to finish the portrait that he gratingly assures Lord that art can never be finished – especially when Alberto’s self-doubt becomes an obstacle in the process as he repeatedly overpaints the near-perfected work.
This is Tucci's fifth film as director, and his first in a decade. Stanley's Final Portrait shows Giacometti's positive and negative traits all in one. It's a delightful nod to the chaos of artistry that's a mixture of doubt, bravery, flair and creativity. James Lord is shot quite the opposite. He is calm, collected and assured. He has a doting wife that he calls every day, with updated ETA of his return, and is the complete reverse of chaotic - perhaps why he is the critic and not the artist.
Their differentiating traits is where the comedy thrives. Giacometti makes Lord stay a few days as oppose to a few hours, then a few more days, and then some more. It's the politeness of Lord that sees the film’s more comedic scenes flourish and allows the chemistry between the two titular characters to flow. James quite clearly feels it would be offensive to leave too early.
Geoffrey Rush is the perfect cast for Alberto. He's witty, he's ageing and he has the dishevelled and bulbous face nailed for 90 minutes. His expression of minimalistic contentment for everything in life, except for Caroline, captures the perfect vision of what Giacometti was like per the memoir. Armie Hammer's understated performance as Lord makes the madness of Alberto take the upper hand of the camera shots which sums up their relationship. Hammer is charming and immaculate throughout, again the opposite to Alberto. Clémence Poséy's turn as Alberto's muse also lifts the film to new levels as we see Giacometti's relationships with women being extremely complicated.
Tucci's camerawork and the two leading performances make this memoir come alive. We see the chaotic work of Giacometti and the bewilderment of Lord watching Alberto lose his shit when he misplaces a lick of paint. Giacometti is forever deriding himself and states his confidence takes a hit every year. Lord disagrees as Alberto makes more money with every painting, however, Giacometti quips back: "there is no greater breeding ground for doubt than success!” - how true.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
Final Portrait premiered at the Berlinale on 11th February 2017 – certificate TBC