'Modigliani': Mick Davis' terribly underrated and highly misunderstood biopic about Italian painter Amadeo Modigliani

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan 

Most of you would have heard of the great Spanish painter Pablo Picasso but not many of you would have heard of his gifted contemporary Amadeo Modigliani who was an Italian painter noted for painting portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by a surreal elongation of faces, necks, and figures. Although not well received during his lifetime, his creations became much sought-after later on.

Modigliani's poor health troubled him right from his childhood and he died at the young age of 36. But he lived his life to the fullest. And despite the fact he made little money as an artist, he was always well dressed. In fact, Picasso once famously said, "There’s only one man in Paris who knows how to dress and that is Modigliani.”

Two days after Modigliani succumbed to tuberculosis, his 21 year old lover Jeanne Hébuterne (who was also an artist) threw herself out of the fifth-floor apartment window killing herself and her unborn child. Nearly ten years later, at the request of Modigliani's brother, Emanuele, the Hébuterne family agreed to have her remains transferred to Père Lachaise Cemetery to rest beside Modigliani.

Mick Davis' terribly underrated and highly misunderstood biopic Modigliani (2004) does a wonderful job of bringing the life and struggle of the great artist to the screen. One of the film's central themes is the rivalry between Modigliani and Picasso. In its depiction of an unsung, troubled genius the film somewhere fades the line between reality and fiction but Andy Garcia essays the part of Modigliani with a rare sensibility and thoughtfulness. It's really a pity that both the film as well as Garcia's superlative performance have gone unnoticed for almost two decades.

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