Review / ‘Final Portrait’ (M) ****

“FINAL Portrait” is another slice of reality based on a real character, the Swiss/Italian artist Alberto Giacometti. Don’t know him? A key player in the surrealist movement, he is memorable no less for the portraits and landscapes he painted and sketches he drew than for Geoffrey Rush’s delicious portrayal of him in the feature-directing debut of prolific actor Stanley Tucci.

You might remember Geoffrey Rush, the Toowoomba boy who won the 1997 best actor Oscar for his portrayal of the adult David Helfgott in ”Shine” (in which, after coming aboard at script stage, Canberran Andrew Pike’s Ronin Films became the first entity to get commercially involved).

As Alberto, Geoffrey once again plays a character blessed – cynics might say cursed – by idiosyncracity.

Telling about Alberto painting a portrait of his friend, Paris-based American journalist James Lord (Armie Hammer), “Final Portrait” makes a brief voyage, actually filmed in London, among Paris’ back alleys, bistros and brothels with Alberto’s friend James needing repeatedly to delay his return to New York because Alberto kept painting over what he had done and beginning afresh.

It is a great truth, however little known, that the only person an artist feels compelled to satisfy is him or herself. Once turned loose, the work swims or sinks depending on how consumers respond to it.

In the end, taking advice from Alberto’s sculptor brother Diego (Tony Shalhoub), James called a halt. Alberto painted nothing further, dying in January, 1966, from pericarditis and chronic bronchitis. The painting eventually got shipped to New York. It’s undoubtedly worth a great deal now.

Capturing a joyous credibility about the 1960s art scene, Tucci’s screenplay delivers great humour and compassion. While Alberto’s work rather defies easy categorisation, Rush’s portrayal of him is a helpful coda to on with.

At Palace Electric and Dendy

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