Final Portrait

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MFinal Portrait

Directed and Written by: Stanley Tucci

Adapted from: James Lord’s memoir, ‘A Giacometti Portrait’

Produced by: Gail Egan, Nik Bower, Ilann Girard

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Tony Shalhoub, Sylvie Testud, Clémence Poésy.

‘No question of the portrait ever been finish’, states Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush).  As a portrait is never finished.

And it certainly begins to feel that way to James Lord (Armie Hammer) after agreeing to pose while on a short trip to Paris in 1964.

Based on James Lord’s memoir, ‘A Giacometti Portrait’, the film is written and directed by Stanley Tucci (also known for his acting and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in, The Lovely Bones (2009)), the film centres on the battle of wills between the two men: Alberto, the cantankerous genius, and the ever-tolerant James: forced to sit on a rickety wicker chair, day after day as Alberto paints and then repaints his portrait.Final Portrait

What began as flattery turns into a test of endurance as he bares the rantings of the aging Swiss-Italian.  Alberto at one point telling James, ‘Don’t scratch’

‘I itch’, James replies.

‘Don’t itch.’

Yet, through all his vitriol and terrible treatment of his ever-loving wife, Annette (Sylvie Testud), he shows warmth and love for his favourite model and prostitute, Caroline (Clémence Poésy).

Funnily enough, a film about an artist is shown in drab colours as most of the scenes were shot in Alberto’s destitute studio – filled with sculptures, finished and some just begun, with long faces resembling their maker.

But I couldn’t help smiling.

Geoffrey Rush is just so believable as this grumpy genius, embracing the artist’s technique of painting, speaking fluent French and Italian and most importantly showing the movement and attitude of the artist.

‘Have you ever wanted to be a tree?’ he asks James.


Alberto might be cranky, but there’s also vision.  And we’re given a glimpse into the mindset of the man.Final Portrait

The quietly knowing brother, Diego (Tony Shalhoub) balances the tone of the film, lightening the mood as he’s well aware of Alberto’s moods.  And still loves him in spite of it.

Set over two weeks, the idea of showing a character through the process of painting a portrait simplifies the peeling away of layers.

The film is really, a character study.

I was surprised when the film finished as I was happy to stay in the wry, exasperating yet thoughtful space.

And the clever way of showing Alberto’s personality was a pleasure to watch.

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The Daughter

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Directed by: Simon StoneThe Daughter

Produced by: Jan Chapman, Nicole O’Donohue

Screenplay by: Simon Stone

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Ewen Leslie, Paul Schneider, Mirada Otto, Anna Torv, Odessa Young, Sam Neill.

An Australian film based on a play by Henrik Ibsen, ‘The Wild Duck’.

After Henry (Jeoffrey Rush) closes down the timber mill, the town starts dying – boarded-up shop fronts reflect the people left: hidden secrets kept behind the surface of happy families.  But slowly, the surface is scratched away as Chris (Paul Schneider), Henry’s son, reunites with his family and old Uni mate, Oliver (Ewen Leslie), to attend his father’s wedding to his second wife, Anna (Anna Torv).

I love films based on plays – you always know the characters are well-developed and the dialogue a highlight and authentic.  But I hadn’t prepared myself for the emotional kick in the stomach this film became.

This is a story about being lucky in life even if it’s not perfect.  A roof over the head of a loving family, that’s being lucky.  Yet, the others who don’t have it, want to destroy it.  Even if they think it’s the right thing to do.  And there’s many a sad story behind every seemingly happy family.  And this is a very sad story.  Yes, a few deep breaths are required.

I was particularly affected by the stand-out performances of Miranda Otto playing Hedvig and Ewen Leslie as Oliver, playing father and daughter and the beautiful relationship between them.  Sam Neill as the grandfather is also worth mentioning – ‘Stories like these are as old as the hills’, he says.

The setting of the film is chosen carefully: country scenery of fog drifting through the trees of a pine forest and sunlight reflected off the water running through grassy banked rivers.  Yes, there’s some real beauty here.

And Hedvig is such a lovely, smart girl, her love of the people in her life a fragile treasure that all who know her try to protect.  But mostly there’s a sadness, like a duck shot out of the sky and left with a broken wing.  You can only hope she’ll fly again.  Lucky duck if she’s saved.  But is she lucky if she can’t fly?

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