Set in Paris in 1919, this biopic presents the life of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, centering, artistically, on his relationship to and rivalry with Pablo Picasso when they both lived in Paris. Modigliani, an Italian Jew from Livorno, has fallen in love with Jeanne, a young and beautiful French Catholic girl. The couple has a child, and Jeanne's bigoted father sends the baby to a faraway convent to be raised by nuns. Modigliani is distraught but needs money to rescue and raise his child. Paris' annual art competition is in the offing. Prize money and a guaranteed career await the winner.
Neither Modigliani nor his 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 the impoverished Modigliani signs up for the competition in a drunken and drug-induced act at the center of a café frequented by artists, including Picasso, who is, by Modigliani signing the roster for the competition, himself induced to sign.
All of Paris is aflutter with excitement at who will win. Modigliani tackles the work of his entry with the hopes of creating a masterpiece, and knows that all the artists of Paris are doing the same. Once completed, he calls his agent and dearest friend,Léopold Zborowski, personally to take the painting to the competition and to make sure no one touches it. While his friend is taking the painting, Modigliani is at City Hall waiting to finally obtain a marriage license. City Hall closes before he is called, but he manages to persuade the woman clerk who is shooing him out to have mercy and give him the license anyway because he has a beautiful daughter and another on the way—and because he is an artist, as is she! As the last person to leave, he decides to celebrate with one drink. Unfortunately his addiction, and his nervousness about the competition, make him drink many more.
The competition was going to start at eight o'clock, and when he realizes he is very late he finally rushes out, without paying. While drinking, he had been asked whether he had the money to pay, and he had answered that he had 5,000 francs (the prize money) and could buy everyone in the café a drink. Two guys that were in the bar follow him and assault and severely beat him, under the assumption that he has a lot of money. Once they find that he has no money they leave him in the snow, bloody and more than half dead.
His painting of Jeanne in a blue dress he had stolen from a shop window wins the competition, besting even Picasso's cubist portrait entitled "Modigliani." Unaware of this victory, he somehow manages to make it home, where Jeanne washes the blood from his face. But then his artist friends come, realize that he needs to be in a hospital, and take him there over Jeanne's protests. He dies in hospital. Jeanne commits suicide by falling from a window. They are buried together, along with the unborn child.Andy García ... Amedeo Modigliani
Elsa Zylberstein ... Jeanne Hébuterne, Modigliani's chief love interest
Omid Djalili ... Pablo Picasso, Modigliani's rival
Hippolyte Girardot ... Maurice Utrillo
Eva Herzigova ... Olga Khokhlova, Picasso's wife
Udo Kier ... Max Jacob
Susie Amy ... Beatrice Hastings
Peter Capaldi ... Jean Cocteau
Louis Hilyer ... Léopold Zborowski
Stevan Rimkus ... Chaim Soutine
Dan Astileanu ... Diego Rivera
George Ivascu ... Moise Kisling
Michelle Newell ... Eudoxie Hébuterne
Frederico Ambrosino ... Little Dedo
Miriam Margolyes ... Gertrude Stein
Irina Dinescu ... Paulette
Theodor Danetti ... Auguste Renoir
Ion Siminie ... Claude Monet
Jim Carter ... Achilles Hébuterne
Lance Henriksen ... Foster Kane
Loredana Groza ... Singer
Oana Zavoranu ... Eugenia Modigliani
Maria Rotaru ... Berthe Weill (as Marina Rotaru)
The film was not well received by some critics. New York Times critic Stephen Holden wrote, "The best and maybe the only use to be made of the catastrophic screen biography Modigliani is to serve as a textbook outline of how not to film the life of a legendary artist." On the other hand, Rex Reed of the New York Observer said this was "A film of vitality, with imagery as haunting and romantic as it is intense". According to Rotten Tomatoes 79% of the audience liked the film.
Appearing at a number of film festivals in 2004 and 2005, Modigliani saw its world premiere at the Gala Selection of the Toronto International Film Festival. Also of particular note, it opened the Miami International Film Festival in 2005, and also played at the Bergen International Film Festival, the Washington Jewish Film Festival, The Capri Hollywood Film Festival, the Bangkok International Film Festival, The Mexico City International Contemporary Film Festival, Spain's Mostra de Valencia Cinema del Mediterranean, Italy's Festival Due Mondi, California's San Jose Jewish Film Festival, and the Sonoma Film Festival.
Modigliani was nominated for two International Press Academy Golden Satellite Awards: to Pam Downe for Costume Design and Luigi Marchione and Vlad Vieru for Art Direction and Production Design.
Modigliani had a worldwide theatrical gross of $1,466,013: bringing in $1,260,848 in eight markets and doing $205,165 in the U.S. during 14 weeks in 2005, during which it only screened in 2–9 theatres. The top market for Modigliani was Italy, where it brought in $1,009,517 (69% of the global total).
Making its French theatrical debut on 18 May 2004, later it opened in Russia, Belgium and Ukraine, as well as launching on video in Israel. In 2005, it opened in Dutch, Italian, Romanian, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian theatres—and on DVD in Thailand, Hong Kong, Brazil, Canada and Finland. In 2006 it opened in theatres in Poland, Portugal and Spain; on Argentine TV; and on DVD in Australia, The Czech Republic and New Zealand. In January 2007 it opened on Hungarian and Puerto Rican TV. In 2008 it debuted on DVD in Germany and Austria. As from 10 March 2008, the film has become available in the UK as a DVD rental.
The film has many inconsistencies. Here are some of them:the scene with the foreclosure (due to bankruptcy) with the furniture piled on the mother's bed, happened during Amedeo's birth (he was the last-born child).
Modigliani met Jeanne in 1917, not in 1919.
the alleged rivalry between him and Picasso has never been firmly proven.
the only real painting that appears in the final competition is Soutine's "Piece de Boeuf", realized later, in 1923; all the other works are fictional.
Modigliani was great friend not only with Utrillo but also with Soutine, Rivera, Kisling, Foujita, Brâncuși, Chagall, Souza Cardoso.
Modigliani was also a great sculptor.
Leopold Zborowski was not only an art dealer but also a poet and writer.
Modigliani and Jeanne dance in the streets to the notes of La vie en rose by Edith Piaf but the song was written in 1945.
Modigliani met Renoir around 1915, without the help of Picasso.
At the time Picasso was not a well established painter.
Picasso was left handed, while in the film he draws and writes with his right hand.
Modigliani died of meningitis not of tuberculosis (which he also suffered of), nor was he beaten up in the streets.