Montparnasse 19 | Chicago Reader

Montparnasse 19

A transitional film (1958, 108 min.) between the French “tradition of quality” and the New Wave, this slick biopic about the last year or so in the life of the painter Amedeo Modigliani (the title alludes to the bohemian quarter and the year, 1919) is a highly personal effort by one of the idols of the New Wave generation, the neglected Jacques Becker (Casque d'or, Le trou). At once clunky, overproduced, and naive, it's also sincere and moving, in spite of its faults as a statement about the gulf between serious artists and marketers. It's both helped and hindered by its glamorous cast: Gerard Philipe, Anouk Aimee, and Lilli Palmer. Jean-Luc Godard memorably defended this film when it came out by writing, “Everything rings true in this totally false film. Everything is illuminated in this obscure film. For he who leaps into the void owes no explanations to those who watch.” In French with subtitles.

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