The Lovers of Montparnasse
(Les amants de Montparnasse)
(Montparnasse 19), (Modigliani)
Gérard Philipe, Lilli Palmer, Anouk Aimée, Gérard Sety,
Thanks to the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.
Becker’s biopic, released in the US as Modigliani, is based loosely upon this Italian artist’s last days in Paris. Played by Gérard Philipe, Modi, as he is called, is a brooding drunkard, little recognized for his stylized portraits of street denizens. He is wracked by self-doubt, which is destructively realized through trysts with a wicked English writer, Beatrice (Lilli Palmer). Modi’s pact with dissolution seems sealed until he meets an aspiring bourgeois artist, Jeanne, cast in the angelic countenance of Anouk Aimée. Becker reconstitutes the bohemian life of Paris with decorative accuracy—the cafes where Modigliani sketches, the exhibition at the Galerie B. Weill, the modeling sessions at the Academy. In the most startling episode, an American tycoon suggests that Modi’s painting would make the ideal label for a new perfume—a suggestion from which the painter flees in outrage. The Lovers of Montparnasse is really about a wrecked man unable to rise above the gravity of his failure. In the sad gestures of Philipe (who himself would soon die), we realize that Modigliani’s paintings are the artifacts of a fall.