"Modigliani" opens in post World War I Paris. The lost generation of the art community has converged and indulge in sex, drugs and jazz music. The most celebrated artist is Pablo Picasso (Omid Djalili) and his most contentious rival is Amedeo Modigliani (Andy Garcia). For a community of outsiders, Modigliani is the outsider’s outsider.
When he is neither drunk or stoned, Modigliani is a charmer and finds ways to generate cash from his improvised artwork. He paints several successful portraits of Jeanne (Elsa Zylberstein) and eventually impregnates her. As Modigliani fortunes begin to rise, his health fails. Eventually Modigliani life and art impacts his world and his loved ones in both positive and negative ways, respectively.
"Modigliani" works as an art history lesson. The audiences witnesses the bohemian lifestyle and sees the cross influences of Impressionism, the Surrealists and the Futurists. Modigliani's art captures for the end of one era and the start of the new.
However the human focus of the story is Jeanne. Her story is far more tragic than her lover’s self-imposed plight. While actress Elsa Zylberstein provides an empathic performance, it is also helpful that this French actress has an eerie resemblance to Modigliani’s muse.
Given his solid work in "The Untouchables" and "The Godfather Part III," Andy Garcia has a history of taking on artistic challenges in his personal movies. He earned numerous awards for his work on "For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story" and he appears comfortable as "Modigliani." Garcia captures the charisma and the rage of the tortured soul.
"Modigliani" is an interesting film to observe because it provides insight to a changing world. At one moment in time, this artist grasped the essence of his surroundings and presented it on his canvas. Eighty-five years later we are still discussing the art of Amedeo Modigliani.