I’ve got 4 main sources for movies now, other than going to a theater: 1) netflix streaming; 2) netflix discs; 3) the library; and 4) Family Video. I try to obtain through free sources first. This was one I requisitioned from #2. I think I found it through looking for Armie Hammer movies. The plot sounded intriguing, but there was some apprehension that the subject matter would be a little dry. Final Portrait, although certainly not an action movie or thriller, had plenty happening with the talented ensemble.
Where do I begin with what shaped up to be a first class film?
First and foremost, is there any denying that Armie Hammer (playing James Lord, a real life art-lover and model for the ‘final portrait’ painted by Alberto Giacometti) has the perfect male form? Armie plays a relatively minor role, but he is the most active figure in it; mostly coming and going from the studio, where he sits immobile for varying lengths of time, over a number of days, as a model for the master sculptor (and painter.) That said, as the inveterate voyeur that I am, simply watching him move from place to place, as well as the closeup camera shots of that beautiful visage, is a joy to behold. Character James Lord is a rather shallow young man, irritating in that he feels his time is more precious than it is and ends up putting the master under pressure to get the portrait finished.
Next is how Geoffrey Rush channels Alberto Giacometti. I’m not sure if he watched film clips, read biographies, interviewed those who knew Master Giacometti well, or if he pulled him back from the great beyond, but watching Rush, in every aspect of his mannerisms, it was difficult to believe it was acting. Giacometti was an odd duck, an artistic genius who was driven by demons of what may have been a tortured childhood (haven’t read much on him up to now) and appears to be in a dissociated state. This state pervades his every waking moment to some degree. At the same time, the wise and alert artist/sage, is lurking in his consciousness, ready to jump out at often perfect moments. Giacometti is driven to do what he does. There are few things in his world that allow the torturers to put down their tools.
The relationship between artist and model is a complex one; watching it unfold is enjoyable. Although artist has the upper hand — the painting won’t be created without him! — he is not irresponsible in holding his model captive. I don’t want to give away any more about it than that.
The studio in Paris (really filmed in London, but altered with CGI to look like Paris –from imdb) is another star of the show. Most of the film takes place there and it’s a work of art in and of itself. The studio is part of a lovely broken down compound where the artist, his wife, and his brother all live.
The supporting cast of his wife, Annette (played by Sylvie Testud); brother, Diego (played by Tony Shalhoub); and girlfriend, Caroline (played by Clemence Poesy) exist within the confines of the compound for the most part and weave a believable world within it. Giacometti is the sun — albeit often a sun in eclipse — upon which they all revolve.
Reading the above, you may get a feeling that Final Portrait is gloom and doom. It isn’t. It’s very easy to empathize with each of the characters. You will feel Lord’s growing anxiety, Giacometti’s fatalism, Annette’s resignation, Diego’s acceptance, and Caroline’s awareness of her role in the older artist’s life. Many times the players are able to laugh at life and many times the viewer will laugh at the players even when they aren’t.
Stanley Tucci directs (his first movie where he directs without acting in it, per imdb).