Inside the studio

A fun look inside world of an artist and the pain of making art

Opens Friday, May 4. Starring Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer. Directed by Stanley Tucci. Pageant Theatre. Rated R.
Rated 3.0

In 1964, an American writer named James Lord spent an unexpectedly long time (over two weeks) posing for a portrait by the revered painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti. Lord wrote a booklength memoir about that peculiarly convoluted episode in the life of a great artist who was also a dear friend. And now, with Final Portrait, Stanley Tucci has written and directed a film adaptation of Lord’s book, with Armie Hammer playing Lord and Geoffrey Rush doing a semi-photographic impersonation of Giacometti.

Tucci’s film gives a day-by-day account of Lord’s sessions at Giacometti’s Paris studio, with particular attention to the eccentricities and semi-farcical contradictions in the great artist’s way of working. That aspect of the film veers toward stereotypical caricature. But there’s greater interest in the rambunctious comedy of manners that emerges from scenes celebrating the rollicking bohemianism of the artist and his cohort.

Rush and Hammer are especially good in their scenes together. As Giacometti’s brother Diego, Tony Shalhoub is a deadpan balancing force, and a bridge of emotional calm, between the two main characters. Clémence Poésy has several piquantly giddy moments as Caroline, the young prostitute who for a while takes up more of Giacometti’s time and attention (and money) than does the woman who actually lives with him (Annette Arm, played by a fiercely stoical Sylvie Testud).