Writer/director Davis creates a fictional contest between the painters of the time, concentrating on the real but cinematically embellished rivalry between the womanizing, alcoholic Modigliani and the famous Pablo Picasso, who disapproves of Modigliani's personal excesses but nevertheless feels threatened by his increasing artistic reputation. Davis' hypothesis that Paris' artists in the early 20th century, including other luminaries like Soutine and Rivera, were the equivalent of today's rock stars is certainly a provocative one but the movie is mostly ineffective in its depiction of their world. Other than Modigliani and Picasso, who is dully portrayed by Omid Djalili, the other artists are merely faces that pass by quickly onscreen. (The portrait of the great painter Auguste Renoir is simply ridiculous.) And while Zylberstein does her best to enliven the proceedings, she still has to act opposite Garcia, who doesn't begin to suggest Modigliani's brilliance and passion. He's bland enough that one wonders what Jeanne sees in him.
Zylberstein aside, the film rarely comes to life. Like the Gauguin film "The Wolf at the Door," "Modigliani" does a grave disservice to a man whose oeuvre still matters today. Starring Andy Garcia, Elsa Zylberstein, Omid Djalili and Hippolyte Girardot. Directed and written by Mick Davis. Produced by Philippe Martinez, Stephanie Martinez, Andre Djaoui and Alan Latham. An Innovation release. Drama. English- and Italian-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 128 min