he story takes place in Paris in the years after the First World War. Modigliani, a Jew, has fallen in love with Jeanne (Zylberstein), a young and beautiful Catholic girl. The couple have an illegitimate child, and Jeanne's bigoted parents send the baby to a faraway convent to be raised by nuns.
Modigliani is distraught and needs money to rescue and raise his child. The answer arrives in the shape of Paris' annual art competition. Prize money and a guaranteed career await the winner. Neither Modigliani, nor his dearest friend and rival Picasso (Djalili) have ever entered the competition, believing that it is beneath true artists like themselves. But push comes to shove with the welfare of his child on the line, and Modigliani signs up for the competition in a drunken and drug-induced tirade. Picasso follows suit and all of Paris is aflutter with excitement at who will win.