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.
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.
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.
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.