The notion of creativity and what it means to be creative is loving explored to its very depths by acclaimed actor Stanley Tucci with the assistance of Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer in Final Portrait.
Set in Paris in 1964, Final Portrait tells the story of the meeting between acclaimed writer James Lord (Hammer) and master painter Alberto Giacometti (Rush) and the long journey they both took together to craft a piece of remarkable artwork.
I must first say that I myself was unaware of the work of Giacometti when I first saw this film, but following it I research the artist in great depth. I was fascinated to learn of his story and of how he stunned the contemporary art world of the 1950s and 1960s with his extraordinary genius. Tucci is himself a lifelong admirer of Giacometti’s work and in watching this film you feel his passion for this story and the subject that it explores. With Final Portrait he dissect’s the intention and the madness of what it means to create, and how the idea of creation affects both the lives of the artist (Giacometti) and the subject (Lord).
Key to Final Portrait’s success is Tucci’s selection of his principal cast members, Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer. With Rush, he taps into Giacometti’s immense self-loathing that plagued the artist for the majority of his life, and the inadequacy that he felt as a creative. As Giacometti Rush is demanding, temperamental, standoffish, obsessive and depressive. Traits that are all with-in keeping with the real-life Giacometti, and while as an audience member I initially saw Rush, by the end of the film I was only seeing Giacometti. The actor’s performance is so good and is so far from Rush’s own general optimistic outlook on life that to not applaud him for his performance would be criminal.
Juxtaposing Rush’s self-loathing as Giacometti through all of this is Hammer’s portrayal of Lord, who while enamoured by Giacometti’s style begins to falter when he see’s how destructive the artist is in his life. But while it would be easy to see it as a depressing tale, Tucci provides the film with plenty of light-hearted moments, as well as the fascinating conversations that follow between Giacometti and Lord as they work together to create Lord’s portrait. Ultimately what Hammer’s Lord comes to understand is that all this anger and frustration is just a part of Giacometti’s process and that this frustration is driven by his desire to create extraordinary works, which the painter invariably did with Lord’s portrait.
While Final Portrait is essentially a character study of two artists and is not driven by action or movement, Tucci does ground his film in a superb setting. His production design, cinematography and costuming mimics the gorgeousness of the French New Wave. Think Chabrol, Truffaut and Godard, French masters of the art of cinema who created works that were completely elegant and packed out with sizzling style. From the inclusion of vintage cars to Hammer’s mod suits and skinny black ties, Final Portrait is packed out with details that will really resonate with film connoisseurs.
If you want to experience a deep meditation on what it means to be creative then Final Portrait is a film worth experiencing. It will make you ponder how you see forms of creativity, and will make you think about what art, and it’s expression, really means to you.