by Rob Gonsalves
You donâ€™t have to know anything about Alberto Giacometti to enjoy 'Final Portrait,' an account of the Swiss sculptor/painterâ€™s halting attempts to paint a portrait of his friend, the American art critic James Lord.Final Portrait is the fifth film in 22 years directed by the wonderful character actor Stanley Tucci, and the first in which he does not appear. On the rare occasions when he is moved to sit behind the camera, Tucci seems most interested in artists â€” their difficulties, their integrity, the ways they can drain the energy of those around them. In his filmmaking debut, Big Night, Tucci played the long-suffering younger brother of the chef (Tony Shalhoub) of the Italian restaurant he managed; his brother insisted on fashioning art with his cuisine, rather than the weak-tea â€śItalian foodâ€ť their American customers demanded.
"We need Tucci behind the camera more often."
Here, Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) feels like a fraud because all of his art is â€śunfinishedâ€ť â€” most artists know that you never â€śfinishâ€ť a piece, you just abandon it, otherwise youâ€™d tinker with it forever if you could (and some artists do). When James (Armie Hammer) sits for a Giacometti portrait, he soon senses that the work is becoming a tinker-fest. Giacometti roughly renders Jamesâ€™ features, then goes for his thick brush and slathers gray paint over everything heâ€™s done, then starts over again. What begins as a three-hour session in Paris turns into weeks. James is often seen on the phone, repeatedly cancelling his flight home to New York.
In a lesser, crasser movie, weâ€™d eventually see the airline employee on the other end answering with a crisp â€śYes, Mr. Lord, we know.â€ť Stanley Tucci doesnâ€™t make lesser, crasser movies. Final Portrait isnâ€™t cheaply jokey like that, but it is nimbly entertaining. The color scheme, mostly the grays of Giacomettiâ€™s studio, interests me; usually, of late, Iâ€™ve been honking on about the dreary monochrome of most movies. But the grays here, courtesy of cinematographer Danny Cohen, have variety and texture. The result is that Giacomettiâ€™s workplace feels weirdly cozy. We can believe in it as a place â€” spattered with plaster, stuffed with hidden sacks of money â€” that Giacometti can retreat to, and frequently gets tired of, shuffling out to get a drink with his prostitute muse (ClĂ©mence PoĂ©sy).
I wasnâ€™t aware of Geoffrey Rush before his Oscar-winning and annoying turn in Shine. Later on, as I saw other, better performances from him, I had to confront the question: In Shine, was I watching an irritating actor, or a great actor who had played an irritating person very effectively? By now I would fall into the latter camp on Rush, and here he creates a gravely shambolic mad genius whose skyward-pointing tangle of hair recalls similarly coiffed visionaries like Eisenstein, George S. Kaufman, Barton Fink. His Giacometti is mordant, depressed: he will never be finished, he will die before reaching any closure in his work. (And indeed two years after the events here, Giacometti was dead.) Rush does especially subtle work with Shalhoub as Giacomettiâ€™s brother Diego, who gently suffers the great artistâ€™s foibles.
James, who went on to write books about Giacometti, figures out he has to still Giacomettiâ€™s hand before he reaches again for the annihilating thick gray brush. An artist learns to listen to the editor voice inside that dictates when time is up and the piece is as done as itâ€™s going to get. Mute that voice and you get (in David Denbyâ€™s words) a â€ślordly dithererâ€ť like Kubrick, or Malick, or your choice of creatives who take eons between projects, chewing the damn thing to death, to shreds. Giacometti is a restless god, always with two or three pieces going at a time, his studio full of his own work, some of which seems to regard him balefully. (In one shot he has a wordless psychic clash with a large plaster head that resembles him in profile.) Here and in films like Big Night and Joe Gouldâ€™s Secret, Stanley Tucci shows an artistâ€™s respect for the unfinished, the abandoned, the work someone lived with and dreamed of until it was time to send it out into the world.James may be Giacomettiâ€™s final portrait, but I sincerely hope this wonâ€™t be Tucciâ€™s.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=32051&reviewer=416
originally posted: 03/19/18 19:06:42