You would be forgiven for imagining that Paris in the swingin’ sixties was a vibrant, colourful city. There is no hint of that, however, in Stanley Tucci’s movie about the famous Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush). The story covers a three-week period in 1964 during which Giacometti (better known for his sculptures) painted the portrait of James Lord (Armie Hammer), a young American journalist. Most of the scenes are shot in Giacometti’s grungy grey studio – it may indeed have been exactly how he worked, but the atmos is about as uplifting as splattered wet cement. Why Lord, whose character is written with next to no insight, should have been so enamoured with Giacometti is also not obviously apparent, for he is not an easily likeable man. ‘Genius’ is far too readily accepted as a saving grace for rudeness, gruffness and selfishness, and the chain-smoking Giacometti seems to have possessed all of those unfortunate traits in abundance.
The inexplicable ‘hallelujah’ moment of creativity experienced by the artist is never delivered, but is replaced instead by a lot of boring talk. And, as someone who is not a great fan of Giacometti, considering him to be a one-trick pony who inspired a lot of awful copyists, it reflects poorly on the man whom he might have been so scathing of, Pablo Picasso. When the location moves from the studio to the streets and cafes, the ambiance is stuck somewhere between La Belle Epoch and the Stein/Toklas era – I half expected Toulouse Lautrec or Hemingway to wander into the bordello frequented by Giacometti. Nor does the drab palette of cinematographer Danny Cohen help lift the mood. Rush’s hair is good and, as an actor perfectly suited to such a stagey screenplay, he never lacks gravitas, but his accent is all over the place, while Hammer, in a role not dissimilar to Brendan Fraser’s in the beautiful Gods And Monsters (1998), can do nothing more than look like a gullible Yank.