AJFF Intro: Maverick Modigliani

AJFF Intro: Maverick Modigliani

Consider “Maverick Modigliani” as a virtual tour of Paris in the early 20th century.

To prepare you for 21st year of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, completely virtual-for-the-first time as you’ve never seen before, we bring you 21 previews spotlighting the breath of films offered for your home viewing. The films, which represent more than half of those in the AJFF lineup Feb. 17-28, include classics, intimate family dramas, upbeat comedy and historic documentaries. Sit back and relax as the AJFF brings us together through film.

Consider “Maverick Modigliani” as a virtual tour of Paris in the early 20th century. Our guide is Modigliani’s muse and common-law wife Jeanne Hébuterne. Her measured, deliberate voice transports us though the winding streets, studio garrets, cafés and haunts of this visionary artist whose untimely death at the age of 35 is magnified in this beautifully crafted dramatic film.

Our tour takes a circuitous path as we time-travel back and forth from the past to present day Paris where, like voyeurs, we examine Modigliani’s loves as seen through the act of painting, his indiscretions with women, overdrinking and comradery with the great painters of the School of Paris.

Along the way, voices of historians, critics and art forgers deepen our understanding of this complex, Jewish-Italian artist, whose iconic portraits appear ultramodern with their sleek, elegant contours and ocean breeze coloration. His portraits of mask-like faces are defined by the melancholy and trauma of French Jews briefly after the period of the Dreyfus Affair. The eyes of each figure stare only into themselves, not at us. One can appreciate Modigliani’s infusion of cross-cultural influences in his stylized figures that seem to sublimate any nuance of the anti-Semitic caricatures so prevalent in the graphic media of the day.

The director Valeria Parisi examines, with a keen lens, the faces of the Montparnasse circle and another important Jewish artist in the orbit of Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, whose contrasting painterly language underlies the eternal struggle of the artist as other. The soundtrack by Zaganelli, Myachin and Clampi add a complex dimension to the film with a dramatic aural collage of ambient sound, pop instrumental and orchestral music.

This is a fine film that creatively coalesces the prolific 14-year artistic oeuvre of one of the great Jewish artists of the 20th century.

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