Set in Paris in 1919, biopic centers on the life of late Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, focusing on his last days as well as his rivalry with Pablo Picasso. Modigliani, a Jew, has fallen in love with Jeanne, a young and beautiful Catholic girl. The couple has an illegitimate child, and Jeanne's bigoted parents send the baby to a faraway convent to be raised by nuns. Modigliani is distraught and needs money to rescue and raise his child. The answer arrives in the shape of Paris' annual art competition. Prize money and a guaranteed career await the winner. Neither Modigliani, nor his dearest friend and rival Picasso have ever entered the competition, believing that it is beneath true artists like themselves. But push comes to shove with the welfare of his child on the line, and Modigliani signs up for the competition in a drunken and drug-induced tirade. Picasso follows suit and all of Paris is aflutter with excitement at who will win. With the balance of his relationship with Jeanne... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
If you know anything about art or artists you won't like this film. To paraphrase the late Barry Took: there are thousands of films made, catering for all tastes, but most of them are for those who have absolutely no taste at all - and this is one of them. It is avowedly based on characters not events and most of the latter are invented: the film is after all a drama, not a documentary: the paucity of facts is acceptable, it is the lack of truth which is makes this film so shallow. The characters are Modigliani and his contemporaries, most notably Picasso. With a few exceptions, the acting is wooden where it is not mechanical (Andy Garcia); the exceptions include Louis Hilyer as Zborowski, Jim Carter as Achille Hébuterne, Michelle Newell as Eudoxie Hébuterne and Hippolyte Girardot as Uttrillo, who all try to convince. The rest were simply not believable as the artists they were impersonating: mostly even they themselves gave every impression of not believing in what they were doing. Andy Garcia is too fat for the role of Modigliani, who at the end of his life was wasted by excess (e.g. alcohol) and illness and living in squalor on a diet of brandy and tinned sardines. Omid Djalili as Picasso is even fatter. Elsa Zylberstein is just wet as Jeanne. The scenes of the artists painting are pure vaudeville - most of them seemingly getting more paint on themselves than on the canvas; this is not a total loss however since the paint looks decidedly better on them than on the finished paintings, which are dross. The picture of Jeanne which 'Modi' (his nickname and a pun on 'maudit') paints at the end is unbelievably bad and an insult to an artist who has pretensions to greatness: this is partly what I mean about lack of truth.
This is a film purporting to be about artists, made by someone who clearly knows nothing about art.
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