Armie Hammer Sits Out a Whole Film in Final Portrait
Final Portrait is the fascinating depiction of a genius and the story of a friendship between two profoundly different men, who are united by a constantly evolving creative act. This British-American drama film written and directed by Stanley Tucci, is based on the true story of how Alberto Giacometti invited the young American critic and influential admirer James Lord to sit for him in Paris in 1964.
The film stars Geoffrey Rush as the capricious Alberti Giacometti, who seeks the proper inspiration to ensure that his paintbrushes provide a truthful image of his models. Armie Hammer is impeccable in the role of James Lord, as much as Clémence Poésy is delightful playing a kooky prostitute, Caroline, Giacometti’s muse. Tony Shalhoub proves to have a mastery of languages as he interprets Diego Giacometti, the artist’s brother, speaking fluently in English, French and Italian. Just as enticing are Sylvie Testud in the role of Alberto’s wife, Annette Arm, and James Faulkner playing Pierre Matisse.
Final Portrait makes you empathize and suffer with James Lord, who has to bear with the temperamental Giacometti － who creates and destroys his masterpiece over and over again, dodging its completion. Like Penelope in the Odyssey, who weaved a shroud during the day and unravelled it at night, the Swiss artist hauls his guest in a time loop. Analogously to the 1993 American film Groundhog Day, each day seems to repeat itself without any progression. But in this case the one who is inflicting this cycle of repetition, seems to be the one who should need to re-examine his life and moderate his hedonism. And yet since the dawn of time we are accustomed to associating creative minds with unruliness. Genius and chaos have often been two sides of the same coin. Releasing the visionary potential of the unconscious mind, has always been the essence of the work by the Swiss sculptor, painter, draughtsman and printmaker.
Giacometti was a key player of the Surrealist art movement, however his work overlooks simplistic categorizations in one genre alone. Some describe him as a formalist, others argued that his style was expressionist. The result of his creations was always phenomenological: they embodied the expression of Giacometti’s emotional response to the subject. French philosopher Gilles Deleuze could have defined them as he described the works by Francis Bacon: “blocs of sensation.” This idea truly mirrored the intent of Giacometti who once said that he was sculpting not the human figure but “the shadow that is cast.”
Giacometti’s technique was distinguished by characters reduced to their very core, as the artist once explained in a letter to Pierre Matisse: “Figures were never a compact mass but like a transparent construction.” Giacometti looked back at the realist, classical busts of his youth with nostalgia. Re-approaching the figure, during his more mature phase, was an existential struggle for meaning, rather than a technical deficit.
Final Portrait fully grasps Giacometti’s artistic ideation, thanks to the sensitivity of its director. This is not the first time the talented Stanley Tucci steps behind the camera, to direct his own scripts (The Imposters and Blind Date). In this occasion, he added his humorist touch to Lord’s own memoir, that he first came across during his twenties. “To me, it was a beautiful book about the creative process,” Tucci said. “No matter what field you are in in the arts it’s a really vital and important book.” In fact, Final Portrait tells the difficulties of the artistic process － at times exhilarating, at times exasperating and bewildering － wondering whether the talent of a great artist is a gift or a curse.