Another viewing of Aussie star Geoffrey Rush by Richard Jones

A look at Final Portrait (M)…

finalMost of us have a collection of favourite actors and actresses but on this occasion let’s just concentrates on the males.

My wife loves Bill Nighy. I’m much keener on Australia’s Geoffrey Rush although not overly enamoured with Russell Crowe.

So it’s no surprise I booked us in early at our local arthouse cinema to see Rush in action once again.

In his latest outing the ageing Melbourne lad plays eccentric and world-renowned Swiss-born artist Alberto Giacometti who’s based in Paris.

Sensibly writer-director Stanley Tucci – himself an outstanding actor – has not tried to encapsulate the whole life story of Giacometti but just a few days in the famous artist’s career.

It’s 1964 and New York-based writer James Lord (Armie Hammer) is in Paris after writing an article about Giacometti.

The artist suggests Lord sit for a portrait. The American agrees, not realising what a long drawn-out process it’s going to be.

Giacometti has indicated an “afternoon or two” might be involved.

As the sittings drag on Lord is forced to ring his airline and re-schedule his flight and phone home to tell folks there he’s been delayed.

Tucci introduces us to three important people in Giacometti’s life: his put-upon wife Annette (Sylvia Testud), his brother cum manager Diego (Tony Shalhoub, unrecognisable from his halcyon TV years as private investigator Monk) and regular model Caroline (Clemence Poesy).

Caroline is more than a model, though. She’s a prostitute much fancied by Giacometti with a couple of threatening pimps in the background.

We see these thugs up close in a Paris bar when Giacometti drags out huge amounts of French francs to pay for Caroline’s services, as model and lover.

The younger crook doesn’t understand English so his leader has to translate while the impatient Giacometti continues his monologue.

And how does Giacometti come to have such sums of money? Well, he’s no impoverished artist shivering in a Paris attic studio.

Diego periodically heads off to the gallery where his brother’s works are displayed (and sold) and comes home with the proverbial brown paper bags, stashed with banknotes.

Despite Lord’s pleading the two Giacomettis refuse to use a bank to store their money. Instead they stash the wads of cash around the dilapidated studio, replete with unfinished sculptures and canvasses.

Rush is outstanding as the artist by then in his early 60s.

His constant re-working of the portrait frustrates and overwhelms Lord, who dreads Giacometti’s big brush.

This brush comes out after a fair period of painting and erasing before the big implement is used to white out what’s on the canvas.

And of course Giacometti is prone to the use of expletives as he constantly buries his head in his hands in utter frustration before his easel.

When they take afternoon walks to unwind Giacometti regales Lord with his stories of other famous contemporary artists.

Picasso he labels a ‘plagiarist’ who had refused to accept Giacometti’s suggestion about one unfinished work and did the opposite.

Chagall, who has just completed the fresco in the dome of the Paris Opera, is dismissed as a ‘house painter’.

It’s Rush at his very best and as good as I’ve seen him since his turn as George VI’s speech therapist Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech.


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