This portrait of the French ‘naïve’ painter Séraphine de Senlis (1864–1942) was the deserved winner at France’s César Awards this February, sweeping up the prizes for Best Film, Actress, Original Screenplay, Photography, Score, Costumes and Production Design.
Belgian actress Yolande Moreau vanishes into the role of the awkward small town housemaid who believed God had told her to paint. We first encounter her furtively gathering soil, animal’s blood and the run-off oil from church candles to mix the paints she has invented for herself. She’s like a pagan spirit, trapped in her heavy body and the cumbersome skirts of a century ago. But when she paints, that spirit flies free in ecstatic celebration of flowers, fruit and fertility itself. The intensity of these paintings, now considered masterpieces of modern primitivism, can still be experienced in galleries around the world. The film focuses on her relationship with her ‘discoverer’, the German art critic Wilhelm Uhde, who was a friend of her employer. His patronage saved her life but also catapulted her to an art world prominence she was ill-equipped to handle. (Source: NZ International Film Festival 2009)
Winner of 7 Awards, including Best Actress (Yolande Moreau), Best Cinematography and Best Film - César Awards 2009.
2008Rating: M, contains violence126 minsFrance, Belgium In French and German, with English subtitles
The mystery of Séraphine de Senlis — who died in a mental hospital in 1942 and whose work survives in some of the world’s leading museums — is left intact at the end of “Séraphine.” Rather than trying to explain Séraphine, the film accepts her.
The director, Martin Provost, who wrote it with Marc Abdelnour, focuses intently on Seraphine's delusions, on the manic state that overtakes her at the prospect of fame and fortune, about how she hides far inside so that Uhde cannot reach her. I've seen many films hoping to understand the nature of great artists; one that comes close is "Vincent" by Paul Cox. This is another. It "explains" nothing but feels everything.