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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
Witnessing the Bohemian Life of Paris, 1919: Artists Awry
MODIGLIANI is a difficult movie to review. It has some very strong features such as the cinematography that captures the artsy feeling of Paris 1919 and, despite excesses, manages to create some visuals of hallucinations and the wild madness of painters painting canvasses; a rather complex peak into the lives of several of the more revolutionary artists of the time; and a substantial feeling for the interchange between artist and model. The main problem with the film is a script that is banal, limited in historical validity, and concentrating on a single rather silly motif of a painters' competition.
Amedeo Modigliani (1884 - 1920) was a Sephardic Jew from Italy who moved to the mecca of Paris to create his brilliant portraits and sculptures of nudes and extended neck women and girls. His genius lay in his unifying the spiritual Eastern iconography (tribal art and Judaism) of his heritage with the Christian (read Catholic) traditions of the artists with whom he associated which resulted in his creations of the female nude from a feminist cultural perspective. What this film delivers is a rather annoying portrait of a young consumptive artist who drank and drugged himself to death at a moment in his career when renown was just beginning. The reasons for his place in art history are merely hinted all for the sake of the Hollywood biopic.
Andy Garcia plays Modigliani with a modicum of élan and a plethora of bad traits. The lovely model Jeanne Hébuterne (Elsa Zylberstein) who was the subject not only of his portraits but the mother of his illegitimate child and his live-in paramour is a bit long in the tooth on suffering, though despite the fact that Zylberstien is hampered by both a weak script and limited acting, she does have an uncanny resemblance to Jeanne. The artists with whom 'Modi' works include a strangely miscast Picasso (Omid Djalili), Chaim Soutine (Stevan Rimkus), Maurice Utrillo (Hippolyte Girardot), Diego Rivera (Dan Astileanu), Zborowski (Louis Hilyer), and the strangely non-effeminate Jean Cocteau (Peter Capaldi)! Dealer Max Jacob (Udo Kier) and Gertrude Stein (Miriam Margolyes!) are thrown in with the harlequins and 'Modi's' child spirit Dedo (Frederico Ambrosino) for atmosphere. The storyline is one that could have easily been told in the requisite time frame but MODIGLIANI taxes the viewers' attention for over two hours.
So aside from a visually exciting experience there is really very little to be learned from this liquor and opium soaked consumptive noisy melodrama that could have been about any one of the artists involved in the story. The genius of Modigliani is barely tapped. Grady Harp
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