Blu-Ray Review: Montparnasse 19

The portrait of a tortured artist is one which has inspired fascination and sometimes imitation for hundreds of years. Alcoholism and drug addiction can become romantic notions when they’re associated with the likes of Hemingway, van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Coleridge or Dickens. Indeed, these kinds of excesses have become synonymous with those who are considered creative geniuses or legendary figures. After the death of Max Ophüls, Jacques Becker agreed to take of directorial duties on Montparnasse 19, his drama of the last year of Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani’s life.

Modigliani (Gérard Philippe) mooches around Paris from one drink to the next. If it wasn’t for his rich patron Léopold Zborowski (Gérard Séty) he’d be out on the street. Despite their tempestuous relationship, he keeps returning to his muse, and regular supplier of his alcohol, Beatrice Hastings (Lilli Palmer). That is until Jeanne Hébuterne (Anouk Aimée) arrives in his life. He feels truly happy again, but the black dog keeps barking at his door.

Montparnasse 19 is unusual for a Jacques Becker film, whilst still containing many of his unique touches. In many ways it’s a tribute to Ophüls. There’s something rather compelling about Philippe’s portrayal of Modigliani. Whilst the drink and drugs can drive him to brutality, there’s also a charm which makes him irresistible to women. Montparnasse 19 is a bitter portrait of the last year in the life of an artists who only achieved fame posthumously.

Special Edition Contents:

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, from materials supplied by Gaumont

• Original 1.0 mono sound

• Optional English subtitles

• Jacques Becker and the Artistic Condition, a 55-minute documentary on the making of Montparnasse 19 featuring interviews with Anouk Aimée, Françoise Fabian and Jean Becker

• Newly filmed appreciation of the film by Ginette Vincendeau, author of The BFI Companion to French Cinema and Paris in the Cinema: Beyond the Flâneur

• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet containing new writing by David Jenkins

Montparnasse 19 is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Films on 27 November.

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