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Final Portrait Review - A Masterclass Production

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Final Portrait, from Sony Picture Classics, presents the story of the creative process of Swiss sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti and art lover James Lord and how the two were brought together in the Paris Art Renaissance.

Directed and written by Stanley Tucci, Final Portrait stars Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Tony Shalhoub, Sylvie Testud and Clemence Poesy.

Final Portrait begins with James Lord, played by Armie Hammer, talking on the phone explaining his relationship to Alberto Giacometti, played by Geoffrey Rush, how they met a decade earlier and Alberto asked him to sit for him for a portrait, and he indicated it could be completed in a short amount of time.

The next day James Lord, who was a noted writer and was able to socialize in artist circles as he had a friendship with Pablo Picasso and his then mistress Dora Maar, was on his way to the studio of Giacometti's studio.


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A man of few words, Giacometti's single note recognition of any statement seemed to be the only moments when inflection was clear without texture or double meanings. And today his impeccably dressed and well kept friend who accepted his invitation to sit for him is arriving.

Day One of the portrait odyssey begins with Giacometti, who disheveled appearance seem to spill over into all areas of his life, puttering about, stopping to re-mold a statue, to find a canvass, to sit Lord in just the right place.

And so it began. With day one an enchanting, eye-opening experience to the creative process, we find as with James Lord, who expected the process to take three days, maybe four, the creative process for a master artist has levels with near perfection apparently the only attainable for one of Giacometti's level.

Soon, as the sitting begins to take on a life of its own with the outside world often interjecting itself as Giacometti's mistress/prostitute, Caroline, played by Clemence Poesy, shows up wanting a car.

Showing a rare smile, his obvious rapturous feelings of genuine happiness and joy, pleased that she was so happy, even as his wife, the long-suffering Annette Giacometti, couldn't ignore how she made him feel.

With the chaos of the outside world often imposing on the creative process, the sitting time would be short on some days, longer on the others, with Giacometti often wanting Lord to walk with him, musing over the world, art, lunch, often accompaied by a stroll through the cemetery.

Approaching a week, then ten days, we see the relationship is facing some frustration, as the invitation initially came as Lord was leaving Paris in a few days, and as the creative process continues to lengthen without what the artist considers a completed work, Lord's annoyance is turning into uncompleted creative anxiety.

They continue to meet twelve days, fourteen days, with an uncompleted work looming and to the naked untrained eye the portrait is completed and to the artist "the more one works on a picture the more impossible it become to finish it," Giacometti said.

Exasperation. Sixteen days, seventeen, Giacometti's studio is trashed. Caroline's pimps want more money. So James and Alberto head over to the local bar and pay them in a tense negotiation. Priceless works broken, his brother and assistant Diego, played by Tony Shalhoub, working to clean up the mess.

Eighteen days. Finally, James explains as Alberto pauses prepared to white out the entire completed work, how perfect the portrait looked.

Soon Alberto, Diego and James were all looking at the portrait with the two men, who seemed to secretly want him to stay around, attempting to convince him it was just taking shape. It would soon be complete. To no avail. James left for New York that day. The portrait also.

I really enjoyed Final Portrait. Not simply for the stage like quality, as it could easily be a play. Final Portrait, was attracting to me on multiple levels, the absorption into the creative process. It's complex simplicity. The willingness to abandon oneself to the process, whatever it is, whether it be sculpting, painting or writing. Or was it The Parisian Renaissance the time when in the 1960's when society was awakening and passion to express oneself, especially in a city known for freedom.


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For many reason, and yes the actors, Geoffrey Rush, who is masterclass to watch, the subtilties of his acknowledgments, his affirmative murmurs speaking volumes and of course Armie Hammer, who had to take the audience on his emotional journey without expression as sitting for a portrait is expressionless. Each volley with strength, with the simplest of gestures.

The supporting cast Tony Shalhoub, Sylvie Testud, and Clemence Posey each bring these layers to the relationship adding colors and balance almost tethering the unharnessed creative talent of Alberto. They hold him, so he doesn't get lost and is free to create.

Director Stanley Tucci is able to extract from his actors the ability to emote volumes with strength with no words. Final Portrait is an actors film, one to see to observe.

Final Portrait is a great film. It opens March 23, 2018. See it.

 

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