Final Portrait
dir-scr Stanley Tucci
prd Nik Bower, Gail Egan, Ilann Girard
with Armie Hammer, Geoffrey Rush, Clemence Poesy, Sylvie Testud, Tony Shalhoub, James Faulkner, Kerry Shale, Annabel Mullion, Tim Dreisden, Takatsuna Mukai, Philippe Spall, Gaspard Caens
release UK 18.Aug.17
17/UK 1h29
Final Portrait
The artist's studio: Hammer and Rush

poesy testud shalhoub
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Final Portrait Loose and witty, this story about Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti is engaging mainly because the actors create such vivid characters. The story, on the other hand, is so wispy that it often seems to get stuck in place until another whimsical anecdote knocks it back into motion. So while it feels very slight, writer-director Stanley Tucci is constantly adding little touches of life.

In 1964 Paris, writer James Lord (Hammer) is asked by painter-sculptor Alberto (Rush) to sit for a portrait, saying it'll only take a couple of days. But the free-thinking Alberto marches to his own beat, cavorting with his favourite muse, the prostitute Caroline (Poesy), while his wife Annette (Testud) glares at him. Alberto's brother Diego (Shalhoub) just shrugs and assists in any way he can. And as days stretch into weeks, James begins to worry about Alberto's style of painting then un-painting, while constantly saying that he never sees any of his work as finished.

There's a terrific portrait of the artistic process in here, as Alberto lives by the rules of his inner voice. He does everything by impulse, from painting and touching up a sculpture to taking a lunch break. With so little discipline in his life, it's no surprise that he's rather exasperating to anyone who meets him. Only Diego seems accustomed to his unstructured lifestyle, while James finds it entertaining as long as he has nothing better to do with his time.

Rush gives one of his best-ever performances, which is saying a lot. He vanishes into Alberto, offering insight into his motivations and perceptions while filling every scene with moments of scene-stealing humour. He's fascinating to watch, especially as he interacts with everyone around him. Hammer gives a perceptive turn as the bemused visitor putting up with Alberto's oddness for a limited time. And Shalhoub, Poesy and Testud have strong scenes, even if their characters exist on the edge of the film and Alberto's consciousness.

Oddly, the film's production design seems to have been imagined as a recreation of a black and white photo, which leaves Alberto's art studio looking grubby and colourless. The muted hues also cause a general murkiness to descend over the entire movie, which sits oddly with the otherwise warmly comical tone. So when the plot seems to drift to a stop then rotate in aimless circles, it's not easy to maintain the attention. At least there are plenty of momentary sparks of lively energy to wake us up.

cert 15 themes, language 22.Jun.17

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