We are in Paris in the 1960s, narrow lanes, little courtyards, the distracted artist who doesn't bother about money. There is the prostitute muse and the American ingenue: a writer who agrees to sit for a portrait by Alberto Giacometti. If it wasn't for the cars, cardigans and hemlines it could be the noughties but there is no caricature here. It is based on a true story and finely drawn: Paris, Giacometti and his work. Jean Genet wrote a whole book about this studio (L'Atelier d'Albert Giacometti). Among other things he called it 'a seething dump' The studio in the film is recognisable from contemporary photographs with work and plaster everywhere and Geoffrey Rush has a startling resemblance to the artist with his deeply lined face and shock of hair.
Alberto Giacometti is best known for his sculptures of elongated figures but he did so much more: thousands of drawings, portraits. He was humble in his art, always worrying whether something was good enough, whether he had shown what he wanted to show. He would destroy what he had done, paint over it many times. The film tells the story of when James Lord, an American Writer, sits for a portrait. Giacometti says a couple of days will be enough but also worryingly reveals that 'a work of art is never finished' Diego, the artist's brother and assistant, played by Tony Shalhoub, warns the young man that it could be weeks or longer and so it proves but the two men have a tolerant, amused and even protective attitude to the artist. As Giacometti, Rush is rumbustious, funny, otherworldly and sometimes charming. Jack Lord played by Armie Hammer is always charming, agreeable and slightly bewildered. It's the women who come off worst. The Giacomettis have a slum-like bedroom by the studio, even though by this time he had money. Anne, his wife, played by Sylvie Testud, longs to wear a pretty dress and go to an award ceremony but she does not get to share his social life much because his muse is a prostitute, Caroline, played by Clémence Poésy, and it is Caroline he takes to the posh restaurants and for whom he buys a red car. Caroline is not entirely the free spirit she pretends to be. We understand this when Giacometti is visited by her pimps who demand more money.
Director Stanley Tucci has made a rather beautiful final portrait of Alberto Giacometti, his Art and relationships. Giacometti died a year later.
Spring Onion Borlotti Beans(tinned or dried.
You might have to soak and boil the dried ones)
Water or Stock
Don't worry about the quantities. Aim for roughly the same amount of the vegetables. Don't stint on the parsley. Chop everything small and the parsley finely. Put everything except the cabbage and rice in a pan. There should be a couple of inches of water above the veg. Bring it to the boil and then turn the heat down so it is still bubbling a bit If you think it needs more stock/ water at any stage just add it to the pan, preferably hot. Cook it for half an hour. Then add the cabbage and 5 minutes later, the rice. It should be ready in 10 -15 minutes. The rice and the beans give it body. If you want to add to the thickness of it, keep some cooked beans back, mash them and put them into the soup at the end.
My Nonna, worn out with 10 children, 2 of whom died at 6 months and an alcoholic husband who was away with the Carabinieri in the war, made the most delicious minestra, a rich vegetable soup with a variety of vegetables, particularly cabbage and beans. Her children loved it because they were hungry. My Mam says they used to have bread and milk for breakfast, polenta for lunch and almost always minestra for tea. They had meat on Sundays - maybe a bit of boiled beef and only then would there be a bit of stock to add to the soup, otherwise Nonna would add a bit of pig fat from the pig they fattened and killed every year. The minestra was less watery when she fed it to her grandchildren. We were all more prosperous then,and, as children, we hated that soup, it was sludgy and lumpy, you were never quite sure what was in it and the cabbage went grey. We weren't hungry like our parents. We knew what pizza looked like. Red and white and beautiful.
As I got older I realised how wonderful it was. Later on in her life she got a bee in her bonnet about Italian Food being the best in the world and her children would tease her that she only knew how to make polenta, minestra, pastina and risotto. That was almost true but what she cooked was always fresh and healthy and, except for the polenta, delicious!