Final Portrait


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Final Portrait
"Just because you signal to an audience that you're purposefully making them watch paint dry does not make the experience of it any less tedious."

"That's the terrible thing: the more one works on a picture, the more impossible it becomes to finish it." - Alberto Giacometti

These words could easily form the plot synopsis, and chief difficulty, with Stanley Tucci's drama about the Swiss artist. The writer/director zones in on the period in which American writer and art lover James Lord (Armie Hammer) agreed to sit for a portrait with Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) in Paris, a process that was supposed to take a couple of days but, in fact, took considerably longer than that.

Copy picture

Rush has by far the easier of the two roles here, playing the artist as sincere but emotionally volatile, given to excess in almost every department. This means that fits of moroseness and anger, in which he undoes days worth of work with the swish of a palette knife, but also good humour and wine swilling, not to mention the prostitute mistress (Clémence Poésy) he refuses to hide from his wife (Sylvie Testud). Hammer, on the other hand, has tougher territory, playing the calm in the face of Giacometti's storm. With a script that gives him less than he deserves, he uses body language to suggest considerably more - an ability that finds a much stronger outlet in the upcoming Call Me By Your Name.

The female roles are much more weakly drawn by comparison, though Testud achieves a lot with a little, and the whole production suffers in general from imbalance. The interior of Giacometti's workshop, for example, is loving realised as a dusty space filled with works that he can't quite let go, but the exteriors never feel like more than a film set, too ordered for real life. Liz Bracey's costume design does warrant universal praise, as she finds emotional contrast in the thick woollen coat worn by Giacometti and the sharper modern lines of the suit warn by Lord - and in the outfits sported by the two women in the artist's life. Tony Shalhoub, as Giacometti's brother, also offers a twinkly energy and self-awareness that is missing elsewhere.

While the decision to make the film repetitive in order to illustrate Giacometti's fastidiousness when it came to his work is a deliberate choice, the lack of script development means the film itself becomes monotonous. Just because you signal to an audience that you're purposefully making them watch paint dry does not make the experience of it any less tedious.

Reviewed on: 03 Aug 2017
Share this with others on...
Final Portrait packshot
Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti tries to paint a portrait.
Amazon link


BIFF 2017
EIFF 2017

Search database: