Modigliani

Writer-director Mick Davis' ambitious feature attempts to do for two titans of 20th-century European painting, Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani, what AMADEUS (1984) did for Mozart and Salieri, except that the bitter rivals battle with brushes instead of batons. Paris, 1919: After five dark years of war, the City of Lights is once again electrified by...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Writer-director Mick Davis' ambitious feature attempts to do for two titans of 20th-century European painting, Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani, what AMADEUS (1984) did for Mozart and Salieri, except that the bitter rivals battle with brushes instead of batons. Paris, 1919: After five dark years of war, the City of Lights is once again electrified by a vibrant vie de boheme. In a crowded Montparnasse café, Diego Rivera (Dan Astilean) sketches on the bare back of a topless trollop, starving artists sketch for their supper and Pablo Picasso (Omid Djalili) does indeed pay for dinner by doodling on a napkin. But he refuses to sign it: "I'm buying dinner, not the restaurant," the arrogant artist superstar tells the maitre d'. But the most flamboyant of all is struggling Italian expatriate painter Amedeo "Modi" Modigliani (Andy Garcia), who enters the restaurant tossing roses to the patrons and insults at his far more successful rival, Picasso. Meanwhile, Modi's long-suffering mistress, Jeanne Hebuterne (Elsa Zylberstein, who looks extraordinarily like a Modigliani portrait come to life) waits outside with the infant her lover refuses to see. Knowing he can't support the child, Modi does what he does best: He runs away. Flashbacks reveal that Modi grew up the son of a bankrupt Jewish family in Livorno, Italy, while Jeanne was raise by a deeply anti-Semitic, bourgeois French father (Jim Carter), who's now threatening to have her baby taken away. Hoping to bolster Modi's career and fatten the family coffers, Jeanne urges him to enter an upcoming art competition, even turning to Picasso for help. But however bitter their rivalry, Modi's real nemesis isn't the Spanish painter; it's the childhood tuberculosis still lurking in his lungs. Modi's doctor (Ruza Madarevic) warns that if he doesn't lay off the hashish and alcohol, Modi will be dead within the year. The real-life Modigliani did indeed live a short, tragic life, but this factually inaccurate, plodding film makes it feel twice as long. The likes of Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau and Auguste Renoir glide in and out, but rather than add authenticity to the film's recreation of the extraordinary milieu that was post-World War I Paris, they instead give it an inauthentic, cartoonish quality. Note to Mr. Davis: Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose," which pours poignantly from a Parisian café at two key points in the film, wasn't recorded until 1946, 26 years after Modigliani's death.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Writer-director Mick Davis' ambitious feature attempts to do for two titans of 20th-century European painting, Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani, what AMADEUS (1984) did for Mozart and Salieri, except that the bitter rivals battle with brushes instead of… (more)

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