Stanley Tucci does a little thing, a grand little thing in “Final Portrait,” a study of sittings for the artist Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush, hair furious, features feverish) by a fortyish writer and art lover, James Lord (Armie Hammer). Tucci transforms an artist’s world into a flurry of process, not limited to the hands-on work. In the movies that Tucci has managed to get made as a writer-director, each finds process central—cooking in “The Big Night,” fantasy to forestall another process, writing, in “Joe Gould’s Secret”—and layers magically suggest themselves as we watch a man at work, at a repeated task: perfected scallops, eggs, asparagus; graphomania wrenched from a troubled brain; the sculptor’s signature, his fingers upon clay. It’s a sweet signature, as transfixing as the features of his fellow actors. Very much a miniature, a modest chamber work, contained but hardly tidy, “Final Portrait” (adapted from James Lord’s memoir “A Giacometti Portrait”) opens with a magnificent tableau that Tucci will knot and unknot in the ninety minutes to come: Giacometti awaits his sitter on a bench in a museum, his own signature on a wall behind him a bolt across the widescreen frame. Geoffrey Rush’s stilled pose is the form of sculpture itself: troubled, perhaps tortured, frozen, expressive, ready to burst into motion as a sculpture never can, but can only suggest, as in so much of Giacometti’s work. But, of course, Rush bursts forth: a restless nimbus of hair and smoke and numinous fret and modest terror. There is exhilaration as well in the deft strokes Tucci uses to suggest the contours of the sixty-four-year-old artist’s quotidian life in 1964 Paris. Inner life and outer life merge, and some art is finished; other art may never be concluded. With Tony Shalhoub, Sylvie Testud, Clemence Poesy. 90m. (Ray Pride)
“Final Portrait” opens Friday, March 30 at Landmark Century, River East and Century Evanston.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.