Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Clemence Poesy
Director: Stanley Tucci
Running Time: 90 minutes
Synopsis: Adapted from James Lord's memoir -A Giacometti Portrait'
In 1964, while on a short trip to Paris, the American writer and art-lover James Lord is asked by his friend, the world-renowned artist Alberto Giacometti, to sit for a portrait. The process, Giacometti assures Lord, will take only a few days. Flattered and intrigued, Lord agrees.
So begins not only the story of a touching and offbeat friendship, but, seen through the eyes of Lord, a uniquely revealing insight into the beauty, frustration, profundity and, at times, downright chaos of the artistic process.
Final Portrait is a bewitching portrait of a genius, and of a friendship between two men who are utterly different, yet increasingly bonded through a single, ever-evolving act of creativity. It is a film that shines a light on the artistic process itself, by turns exhilarating, exasperating and bewildering, questioning whether the gift of a great artist is a blessing or a curse.
Release Date: October 5th, 2017
I don't care for biopics. I don't know how you cram somebody's life into an hour and a half or two hours. It just becomes an event-driven film whereas this is a character-driven film. And we hopefully glean as much, if not more, about the person and his life from focusing on this very finite period of time. I've culled different experiences and circumstances, events from Giacometti's life, and put them into these two weeks to create a life in microcosm so that you get a sense of who he was inside and outside of that studio.
I'm a big fan of Giacometti's work. I always have been. I began to read about it, including this book, -A Giacometti Portrait'. I carried with me for 25 years or something like that. I wrote this film ten years ago, or more. I am always interested in the creative process: why you do what you do as an artist, and also the artist's relationship to their work and to society. That creative process is very well described by Lord and by Giacometti in this little book. It's arguably one of the best books every written about the creative process and I think anybody, in any art form - it should be like a bible for them. Giacometti was one of the most articulate artists of his time. He was also incredibly funny; he had a great sense of irony.
Geoffrey Rush is a great actor and I always admired him. Of course when you look at Geoffrey you see distinctly that there is a resemblance to Giacometti. There was still a fair amount we had to do to really get him to look like Giacometti because his physical self is distinctly different from Giacometti, his body is different. Geoffrey is very thin and lanky, and Giacometti was short and stocky and muscular, so we worked that out, and we also broadened his face. Because Geoffrey immerses himself into characters and is incredibly charming on screen, and very funny, he was the perfect person.
It was very hard to find the right person for the role of Lord. Eventually someone mentioned Armie Hammer, and I remembered seeing him in a couple of movies and liking him, and I thought he was really perfect for it. We talked and he loved the script. He had done a lot of really big Hollywood movies, and I think he was ready to dive in and do a small, independent film. And he was wonderful.
Tony Shalhoub is one of the greatest actors ever. I have a difficulty imagining not working with Tony in every project that I do. He's so good. He played my brother in Big Night; he was in the second movie I directed [The Imposters]; he can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. I love working with him. We've done plays, we've done movies, we've done TV stuff together, and I directed him in a show on Broadway. He's an extraordinary actor, extraordinary.
Sylvie Testud is an amazing actress, we're so lucky to have her. Annette [Giacometti's wife] is a very hard role to cast. Of course we had to have someone who spoke fluent French, and she speaks English very well. She's so technically adept without sacrificing any bit of truth. You could do one take with her; she was incredible, almost like a force of nature. And she's also very funny.
Giacometti never wanted to get married. He met Annette during the war when he was living in Geneva. She was quite a bit younger and they ended up falling in love; she had a bright spirit and she made him very happy, and she doted on him. She moved to Paris with him, and convinced him to marry her, and he didn't want to. But he never stopped frequenting brothels, and seeing other women. He didn't want the trappings of domesticity; he wanted only to do his work, and he wanted companionship, and he wanted sex; and they were completely separate things, he compartmentalised all those things. And that wasn't what she wanted, so there were these constant arguments.
Clémence Poésy is incredible! She's a great actress and she's just so stunning you never want to stop looking at her. Her face is so different from every angle too which makes her even more interesting, and she was very playful. I wanted Caroline [Giacometti's mistress] to bring a completely different energy and break open this kind of quiet, almost sepulchre-like feeling that was in the studio.
Giacometti met Caroline towards the end of his life. He carried on an affair with her for three or four years. And Caroline brought a kind of energy, and by all accounts she was very funny and very beautiful. And she was dangerous because she moved in this underworld of gangsters and thieves, and he loved all that. And he gave her so much money; he bought things for her that he would never buy for his wife. He was incredibly generous with everyone except for his wife and Annette, for some reason, accepted this. They lived this very strange life. He encouraged his wife to have relationships with other men, one man in particular, a Japanese fellow, Isaku Yanaihara, who became a friend and was one of Giacometti's primary models. To me, I think he should've just let his wife go, and yet at the same time she wasn't interested in going. She needed it as much as he needed it. This is some kind of existential torture that they were both inflicting on each other.
Giacometti and his brother Diego were always good friends. They were very different in the sense that Giacometti was much more demonstrative and wore his heart on his sleeve. Diego was more taciturn and removed; nobody really knew a lot about his personal life. He was an artist in his own right; he was clearly very smart and talented. He ended up moving in with his brother and became his right-hand man until his brother died. But in the meantime, he was making his own art, which was more decorative; they both had done this during the 1930s - they designed vases, lighting and furniture to make money when they were younger.
To me it makes perfect senses that no matter what you do when you're creating something; you always know that when you finish a movie, a script, a painting, you're always rethinking. But you have to let it go, and move on to something else. The good thing about painting is that you can always go back and fix them up a little bit. I'm fascinated by that, that sort of perpetual dissatisfaction. And Giacometti has a great line: 'what better breeding ground for doubt than success." It's absolutely true.
You want to be as truthful as possible, but of course you have to take poetic licence. I feel we've been as truthful to him and his story as we could be. I had gotten to know James Lord, which is how I got the rights to the book originally, and Lord would tell me lots of stories about Giacometti. So that was incredibly helpful. Plus I'd read just about everything that had ever been written about him. A lot of our dialogue is what Lord recounted.
James Merifield is an incredible designer. We had a very small budget. Luckily, CGI is getting more sophisticated, and less expensive, so we were able to do some of that. If you can have that you sell the idea that you're in Paris. But also, obviously the most important thing, because this is where most of the action takes place, is Giacometti's studio, and recreating that as truthfully as possible. We made a few changes, but it's as close to the recreation of his studio as you might ever get.
Recreating the artwork was another really difficult task. James hired three young artists who could recreate the sculptures that we could assume were in his studio during those weeks. And that was quite a task, but they did it brilliantly.
As an actor, you need to have a costume that is going to make you feel comfortable and to help you find that character. The palette was very specific; it's a very neutral palette. Caroline would give us a splash of colour either in her lipstick or her coat. Also Annette has a mustard coloured coat that's described in a number of different books. Because Giacometti's work is very neutral, we wanted to create that palette with these little splashes of colour.
Danny Cohen was amazing because I didn't want to fuss around with lights on the set. I like to move very quickly; I wanted things to be as spontaneous as possible for the actors so we had to shoot very quickly. He was able to light the set so beautifully, so quickly. At the push of the button it would become dusk, it would become daylight, or late afternoon. I had these incredible people, Catherine also who was doing the makeup. We were very, very lucky.
What I hope audiences will take away is to learn more about Giacometti, and to see the creative process. And also that an artist is very serious about what he or she does, but also at the same time there's this wonderful sense of humour, a sense of irony within that process. And that process never, ever, ever stops. And just give an insight into what I think is an amazing process that artists have struggled with for thousands of years.
Release Date: October 5th, 2017