Modigliani (2004)




Director:  Mick Davis

Starring:  Andy Garcia (Amedeo Modigliani), Elsa Zylberstein (Jeanne Hébuterne), Omid Djalili (Pablo Picasso), Hippolyte Girardot (Maurice Utrillo), Eva Herzigova (Olga Picasso), Udo Kier (Max Jacob), Susie Amy (Beatrice Hastings), Peter Capaldi (Jean Cocteau), Louis Hilyer (Zborowski), Stevan Rimkus (Soutine), Dan Astileanu (Diego Rivera), George Ivascu (Moise Kisling), Michelle Newell (Eudoxie Hébuterne), Frederico Ambrosino (Little Dedo), Miriam Margolyes (Gertrude Stein).

the work and life of Amedeo Modigliani and his love for his sweetheart Jeanne


 Spoiler Warning:     below is a summary of the entire film. 

"This is a fictional story narrating fictional events but is loosely based on the lives of the characters depicted herein.  All the works are fictional and are not works of any of the artists depicted. . . ."

A woman, Jeanne, asks if you know what real love is?  "Have you ever loved so deeply that you would condemn yourself to an eternity in hell?  I have." 

Paris.  One year earlier. 1919.  At a night club a woman (probably Edith Piaf) sings for the crowd.  Pablo Picasso sits at a table with other artists.  They talk about a grand price given by the Salon des artistes.  They talk of competing for the prize.  Diego River, the famous Mexican muralist and communist, is also in the night club.  Outside the place Jeanne Hébuterne with her baby waits.  Her fathers asks her what the hell does she think she is doing?  She replies:  "He needs to see his daughter."  Dad says no one should see that bastard Jew baby. 

Modigliani comes into the place, stands on a table and greets everyone.  He teases Pablo who starts to fight him.  The other patrons pull Pablo off of Modigliani.  Picasso asks him:  "Why do you hate me so much?"  Modigliani responds:  "I love you Pablo.  It's myself I hate."  He then tells everyone goodbye and leaves.  Outside two of his friends want to drink with him, but he tells them that he has a date with Beatrice. 

Jeanne's father comes back home and her mother tells her husband that he can't change destiny.  She is meant to be with him.  Jeanne is in her bedroom with the baby.  She has paintings by Modigliani up on her walls.  She remembers back to the time that she first met him. 

Flashback.  It was in art class where the teacher was trying to get a dog to sit on the stand, so the students could draw him, but the dog is uncooperative.  Modigliani comes in and works with the dog awhile and gets him to sit still.  Jeanne watches Modigliani intently and he notices her too. 

Modigliani waits at the base of the stairs and when Jeanne comes down, he calls her by named.  Jeanne wants to know how does he know her name?  He introduces himself to her, but she already knows who he is.  He asks to see her drawing, but she doesn't want him to look at it, since, as she says, she is no artist.  He trades her his hat for a chance to look at her drawing.  She agrees.  He finds in her folder a picture of himself that she drew.  He has a liquor bottle in one hand and seems to be having a high-old time.   

Modigliani uses Jeanne as a model for one of his paintings.  After he finishes, he hugs her. 

Back to the present.  Modigliani goes to the hotel and knocks on the door of Beatrice Hastings.  She tells him he has kept her waiting.  He comes in and she introduces him to one of the biggest art dealers in New York.  The dealer says that Modigliani's painting are "interesting".  This makes Modigliani angry and he insults the art dealer and throws his drink in the face of the man sitting next to him because he laughs nearly continuously.  He then tosses the glass onto a small table.  He leaves.

Beatrice is shocked and then angry.  She runs after him and asks him how could he embarrass her like that?  He turns around and kisses her passionately.  He tells her:  "Go back to your sheep." 

Flashback.  Livorno, Italy, 1892.  Modigliani is a young boy and he is drawing on one of the walls in the apartment.  An official comes in with two policemen.  The Jewish family is in arrears on its taxes and everything will be confiscated and sold to pay their debt.  The mother in the family is sick.  The men have stacked up all their furniture on the end of her mattress.   Dad tells the collector:  "Ancient law of Italy states: Whatever a pregnant woman has on her bed, she can keep.  We claim that right."  He tells the tax fellow to copy down everything that's on the bed:  two tables, five chairs, two chandeliers, three blankets, four paintings, one large mirror, one vase, etc.

Back to the present.  Jeanne has her baby baptized. Her father and mother are in attendance.  In Jeanne's confession to the priest, she asks she fell in love, is that a sin?  The priest says no.  She also tells him that she doesn't know what to do.  Jeanne really misses Amedeo.  The priest tells her she must be strong for herself and the baby. 

Outside her father says that this is for the best because:  "The world can be a cruel place for a child who bears a stigma."  Jeanne stares at her father for quite awhile and then starts walking away from him.  He goes after her and calls her stupid and doesn't know what to do.   She answers back:  "And do you?  Do you know what you are doing, Papa?  Remember what you did?  Remember?"

A military band marches through the streets escorting new military recruits.  Diego Rivera says:  "Poor bastards.  They don't even know what they fight for."  Modigliani stands up and salutes the military.  Beatrice is driven near to where the artists are sitting.  She takes a shotgun out and shoots at Modiglian, saying he doesn't leaver her  --  she leaves him.  She returns to her car.  The men laugh and clap for her performance. 

Modigliani and two friends break into a butcher shop.  They grab a side of beef  and start taking it, when the owner comes chasing after them with a big hatchet.  The men drop the carcass and run for it.  Modigliani sees Jeanne sitting at a table at a sidewalk cafe.  She looks defiant at first with her arms folded tightly in front of her, but as soon as Modigliani opens his arms up, she runs to him and they embrace.  They kiss and they both say they love the other person.  In the street they dance to a song sung by Piaf. 

In the morning Amedeo and Jeanne wake up.  He tells her to look around at the cheap and dirty room he lives in.  Then he asks her is it right to leave a baby behind to come to a place like this?  He says he is nothing and he has nothing for her.  He can't even be a father to their child.  Jeanne says that Amedeo is just going to run away.  "Isn't that what I do best?" asks Modigliani.  He says he's sorry, but Jeanne says he is too selfish to be sorry. 

Jeanne goes to Modigliani's art dealer.  She wants him to go to Picasso and ask him to hang Modigliani's work next to his work.  Jeanne says she needs money.  The fellow tells her that she should go see Picasso herself.

Jeanne visits Picasso with his wife Olga Picasso.  At first Picasso says no, but then says he can hang up one picture by his pictures.  And there is one condition.  He whispers the condition in Jeanne's ear.  She just looks at Picasso, but says nothing.  He tells her she can go now.  Olga tells Picasso that he is up to something.  Picasso just tells her to keep dusting. 

The art dealer goes to see Modigliani and Amedeo's friend harasses him by firing a pistol at him.  Modigliani says the man has not sold a painting in six months.  Finally, Modigliani says he can come up. 

The art dealer urges Modigliani to take part in the art competition with Picasso.  He tells him Picasso has agreed to hang one of Modigliani's painting with his works as a favor.  Modigliani cannot believe Picasso will do him a favor.

Modigliani goes to the doctor and she tells him that he still has his tuberculosis from his childhood and his lungs are working at less than one-half of their capacity.   He will not live past this year if he does not stop using drugs and alcohol.  She writes out something on a piece of paper, but when she looks up, Modigliani is gone.  At night he sits on a street curb with a bottle of liquor and a cat in his lap. 

At the Picassso exhibition, Gertrude Stein comes over to see Modigliani.  She says she waited for four days for him to show up to paint her portrait.  She demands now that he show up tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock sharp.  Modigliani's portrait of Jeanne is shown from the stage to the attendees.  Then Picasso's work in progress is presented.  Modigliani is shocked when a curtain comes down to reveal  Jeanne sitting on a stool and Picasso finishing his painting of her.  Modigliani feels betrayed by Jeanne.  He picks up his own painting of her and slams it onto the top of an easel.  He leaves.  Jeanne chases after him saying she was only trying to help him.  He yells back that he doesn't need that type of help. She tells him their daughter needs him.

At home with Jeanne's mother, Modigliani holds his daughter.  Mother warns Jeanne that if Modigliani is still here when her father comes back, there will be trouble.  Modigliani does not move.  Father does come home.  When he see the famous painter he tells his daughter:  "I warn you.  If you chose to be with that Jew, I will have no alternative but to inform the necessary authorities that you are an unfit mother, after which, they will take your child and you will never see her again."  Modigliani leaves, but as he goes, he says to Jeanne's father:  "Grandpapa."  He then kisses him and tells him:  "I'll be watching you."

There is a brief scene with Modigliani and himself as a young boy in Italy.  He yells at the boy, then says he's sorry, but the lad is gone. 

Modigliani shows up at Gertrude Stein's apartment.  She tells him to enter the competition and then Pablo will too.  Modigliani says Picasso is too proud to be a part of the competition. While she sits on the couch, Modigliani starts sketching her. 

A friend tells Pablo to joint the art competition  --  get in the ring with the bull.  Pablo says only:  "I am the bull."

Waling on an empty street, Modiglian remembers back to a parade in Italy.  Many of the revelers come wearing Picasso face masks.  When a circus ring leader approaches him, he takes off his mask.  Under the mask is Modigliani himself.  Amedeo goes to an opium den and smokes and is approached by a prostitute, but he says he has no money.  The police raid the place and Modigliani lands in jail.  A trio of men bails him out.  The art dealer picks him up at the jail.  He has bad news for Amedeo.  His friend the painter Maurice Utrillo is back in the mental asylum. 

Jeanne is cleaning the toilet bowl in her apartment.  Mother comes and tells her that father went to the child welfare office this morning.  Dad has asked that they take custody of the baby.  Mother adds that Jeanne could chose her baby over Amedeo, but Jeanne says she would die without him.  Mom says she will die with him.  She leaves.

Modigliani goes to see Utrillo.  He is held in an isolation cell.  He wears a straight jacket and is kept in the middle of the room by the use of three long chains. Amedeo hugs and kisses him and says he will get him out of here.   

Amedeo goes home.  He as a lad is sitting beside Jeanne who is sleeping on a bed on the floor.  The boy asks if Jeanne will stay with them and Modigliani says he hopes so. 

Jeanne and Amedeo attend a party at which he learns that it was Picasso who got him out of jail.  Pablo and Olga are at the party.  Picasso is in costume as a Japanese samurai swordsman.  Amedeo goes over to see him and begins with:  "I didn't ask you to bail me out."  Pablo gets up and draws the sword a little ways out of the scabbard and it looks like there will be trouble.  But Olga starts singing and everyone walks into the main room to have some birthday cake. 

Picasso takes Modigliani to the home of the famous painter Renoir.  There sits Renoir and Pablo tells Modigliani:  "Come meet God."  They talk for awhile.  Picasso wants to leave.  Renoir asks Modigliani if he is crazy?  Modigliani uses his this thumb and a finger to indicate just a little.  Renoir says he knew that already. 

Modigliani paints a portrait of a young girl.  The mother looks at the portrait and says the child's neck is not so long.  She irritates Modigliani so much that he gives her the paint brush and tells her to paint the portrait.  He gives the painting to the little girl, she says she likes it, he gives her a kiss and then leaves.  The mother tells Jeanne that she is not paying for the portrait.  Jeanne just smiles. 

Modigliani goes to an opium den and later drinks until he's drunk.  In a delusional state, he jumps from a bridge thinking he is saving his friend Utrillo who floats in his casket down the river.  Having jumped in the river, he imagines himself getting in the casket with his friend.  Taking the fantasy farther, Modigliani imagines that he is now the one placed in a straight jacket in a mental asylum.  Some men jump in the river and save Modigliani from drowning. 

Modigliani is brought home.  A number of friends are there watching him sleep.  Among them is the now freed Utrillo.  Jeanne comes in and starts screaming and forcing everyone out of the apartment.  Modigliani tells Jeanne that he will never leave her again. 

South of France.  Jeanne and Amedeo are on a little vacation by the sea thanks to Modigliani's art dealer, who pays them a visit there.  He says everyone is getting ready for the art competition.  Amadeo still says no.  The dealer looks at some of Amedeo's recent work.  He breaks the news to Amedeo that he is getting a one-man show thanks to a female admirer of his work, Berthe Weill.  Modigliani almost acts indifferent, but he does laugh at the over-enthusiasm of the art dealer.   

At the one-man show, Jeanne is very pregnant.  Picasso comes in with Olga and friends and congratulates Modigliani.  A policeman comes in and tells Berthe that she must remove the nude paintings in the window of her art gallery.  Berthe refuses, but Modigliani tells her:  "Do as he says."  Picasso rubs salt in Amedeo's wounds by saying he used the portrait of Jeanne as a canvas for one of his own paintings.  The attendees gasp in shock.  Picasso asks if he forgives him?  Modigliani and Jeanne walk out.  They take a streetcar, but Jeanne gets off on her own to go home saying she is exhausted. 

When Amedo gets home Jeanne's mother tells her that welfare has taken their beautiful baby girl.  Mom says that all this is just because the artist refuses to live a normal life.   Modigliani goes over to the father's house and starts yelling for him from the street.  He goes up to see dad, who grabs a knife to keep the artist away from him.  Amedeo tells dad to go ahead and stab him.  He dares him to do it, but dad won't.  Amedeo leaves.  Modigliani now goes over to the cafe.  There Pablo has a pistol he lays on the table just in case.  Amedeo signs his names to the competition list and tells Pablo he forgives him. Picasso goes over to him and the two men look over each other.  Then Pablo signs his name to join the competition.  Modigliani leaves and everyone in the cafe claps and cheers for the two men.   

On his way home Amedeo breaks a shop window and steals a blue dress from off the manikin.  He is going to use Jeanne again as the model for his competition painting.  Jeanne puts on the dress and sits for a portrait.  The other competitors also paint their portraits. 

Modigliani calls his dealer to tell him to take the finished painting to the competition and not let it out of his sight.  He is going to city hall to get a license to marry Jeanne.  Jeanne's mother illegally takes Jeanne's baby out from the nunnery where she was being cared for. 

At 5:30 p.m. the lady at the marriage license office wakes up a sleeping Amedeo to tell him to go home, they are closing.  Amedeo starts to plead with her to give him a marriage license.  He charms her and Modigliani gets his license.  He starts to go home but stops in at a cafe bar.  Amedeo as a boy tells him that Jeanne is waiting for him, but the grown Modigliani goes in anyway saying he will only be in the bar for ten minutes.  But Amedeo just keeps drinking and drinking.  He even says he has 5,000 francs and is buying everyone in the bar a drink.  Meanwhile, the other artists are arriving at the art museum. 

Jeanne arrives and speaks with Amedeo's dealer.   Her mother comes in and gives the baby to Jeanne.  She asks:  "Where is the great Modigliani?"  He is still at the bar.  Modigliani finally leaves the bar, but now the paintings in the competition are being shown one at a time.  The first one revealed is by Soutine, a Jewish painter originally from Belarus.   Next is Diego Rivera, who painted his wife, the painter Frida Kahlo.  Meanwhile, Modigliani is being mugged and beaten.  Moise Kisling's painting is revealed, followed by Utrillo's. Picasso has done a cubist portrait of Modigliani.  The last painting revealed is by Modigliani.  Jeanne starts crying when she sees her portrait because the painting has her full eyes.  She remembers what Amedeo told her:  "When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes."

The muggers find the marriage license on Amedeo, who tries to grab it back.  He gets beat some more for this.  At the competition, the crowd claps and shouts for Modigliani. 

Modigliani lays out on the snow bleeding and busted up.  He makes it home to Jeanne with his face covered in blood.  He asks her about his hands and Jeanne finds them unharmed.  In his hand he has a piece of the marriage license.  Jeanne looks at it and says she will always be his wife.  Utrillo and another painter come to visit.  They see the blood in front of the door and burst into the apartment.  They grab Amedeo and start taking him to a hospital, while Jeanne cries over and over again:  "Don't take him from me."

They place Amedeo in a wheelbarrow and through the snow they push the wheelbarrow to the hospital..  The dealer and Jeanne come to visit Modigliani in the hospital.  Amedeo cries when he sees her.  He has a hard time breathing and coughs a lot.  He tells her:  "It's time to end this madness."  She says:  "No"  He dies.  Jeanne screams his name and then kisses his lips.  She says:  "Wait for me, my love.  Wait for me."  She leaves.  The dealer and three of his artist friends cry or are extremely upset.  A death mask is made of Amedeo. 

With blood still on her, Jeanne goes to the cafe and talks to Picasso.  She says she feels nothing.  Jeanne adds:  "You'll go home, Pablo.  You all will.  Live a full and rich life, but I swear to God, when the time comes when you lay there in your death beds the name Modigliani will not be far from your lips.  You can never paint over this night.  It belongs to him."  She leaves.  Pablo lowers his head.    

Jeanne goes to see her baby girl.  She washes her own face.  Jeanne asks her child to understand  --  to try and forgive her.  She lets herself fall backwards out of the window of her apartment. 

Their artist friends are there for the burials.  Picasso is the last to leave the cemetery.  He takes hold of the hand of the young Amedeo and they walk out.   

The film is dedicated to Jeanne's and Amedo's daughter:  Jeanne Modigliani. 



The family much enjoyed the film. It follows the theme of Modigliani's life: the starving artist.  But the starving artist finds the love of his life, even if things don't always go smoothly.  The two main actors were great in their parts.  One learns who were Modigliani's contemporary artists, such as Picasso (who is not portrayed sympathetically).  This always makes me interested in seeing if there are movies about these other painters.    Spoiler Warning:  the ending is extremely sad and you may find yourself crying.  The ending music reflects the pathos of the film. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1884 (July 12)  --  Amedeo Clemente Modigliani born in Livorno, Tuscany, Italy to a Italian Jewish family.  After his father lost his job as a money-changer the family lived in poverty. 

1898  --  at age 14, Modigliani suffered from typhoid.

1900  --  he contracted tuberculosis, which affected him for the rest of his life. He also suffered from bouts of depression.

1902  --  Modigliani enrolled in the Free School of Nude Studies in Florence.

1903  --  he enrolled in the Istituto per le Belle Arti di Venezia in Venice.  He began smoking hashish and spending a lot of time in the more disreputable parts of the city. 

1906  --  Modigliani moved to Paris, the home of the Europelan avant-garde.  He became the epitome of the tragic artist.

He settled in the commune known as Le Bateau-Lavoir in Montmarte in the north of Paris.  Other penniless artists lived there.  He began to paint, greatly influenced by  Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and later by Paul Cézanne. Eventually, he developed his own unique style, which was greatly influenced by African and Cambodian painting. .

1909  --  Modigliani returned home to Livorno when his wild life had negatively affected his health.  He did not stay long.  He returned to France, renting a studio on the left bank of the Seine in Montparnasse. 

1912  --  he exhibited some sculptures, but returned to painting.

He painted portraits of some of his friends and contemporaries: his friend Russian expressionist painter Chaim Soutine, Polish painter Moise Kisling, Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, Russian cubist painter Marie Marevna Vorobyev-Stebeslka, Spanish cubist painter Juan Gris, French poet Max Jacob, Swiss poet and novelist Blaise Cendrars, and French dramatist Jean Cocteau.

He had many women friends and lovers.  Beatrice Hastings was with him for two years.  (She was the model for the painting Madame Pompadour.)

He became friends with British painter Nina Hamnett. 

1914  --  World War I.  He tried to enlist, but was rejected because of his bad health.

1916  --  he painted portraits of his friend the Polish poet and art dealer Leopold Zborovski and his wife Anna.

1917 (summer)  --  Russian sculptor Chana Orloff introduced Modigliani to 18-year-old French art student Jeanne Hébuterne. He soon fell in love with the beautiful girl.  The relationship led to troubles with her family, primarily because he was Jewish and secondarily because he was a drunkard and penniless.  She started living with the painter, despite their many public rows.

1917 (December 3)  --  his first one-man exhibition, at the Berthe Weill Gallery in Paris,  was closed after a few hours by the chief of the police because of the "scandalous" nude paintings. 

The couple moved to Nice and Jeanne became pregnant.

1918 (November 29)  --  birth of their daughter Jeanne. 

1919 (May)  --  they returned to Paris and rented an apartment in the Rue de la Grande Chaumière.  The couple painted portraits of each other and of themselves.

1920  --  Modigliani became delirious and took to bed holding onto his almost nine months pregnant common-law wife.  A doctor was called, but he could do little since Modigliani had tubercular meningitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.  He died without regaining consciousness.

Many artists attend his funeral at the PPre Lachaise Cemetery near Paris. 

Just two days after the death of Modigliani, Jeanne threw herself out of a fifth-floor window, killing herself and her unborn child.   She was buried at a different cemetery than the one where Modigliani was buried. 

1930  --  Jeanne's embittered family finally allowed her to be moved to rest beside Modigliani.


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