Montparnasse 19, a film about the tragic final years in the life of Italian painter and sculptor Amadeo Modigliani, was itself beset by tragedy. Max Ophuls, the famed director of Letter from an Unknown Woman and Le Plaisir, died during its production, leaving his friend Jacques Becker to complete the picture. Its lead performer too, the great French actor Gérard Philippe, would succumb to cancer just over a year after its release.
In tracing the latter part of Modigliani’s life, Montparnasse 19, focuses on the key figures during his time in Paris – his patron Léopold Zborowski (played by Gérard Séty) and two muses, Beatrice Hastings (Lilli Palmer) and Jeanne Hébuterne (Anouk Aimée) – and his gradual descent into alcoholism and drug addiction. The end results, both hauntingly beautiful and savagely ironic, are really quite remarkable. A fitting tribute to the outstanding careers of Ophuls and Philippe, and another excellent entry in the equally superb filmography of Becker, a filmmaker who is finally getting his due.
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