Autumn 2009 Features series
Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 4:00pm
Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 7:00pm
Directed by Martin Provost
Screenplay by Marc Abdelnour and Martin Provost
Starring Yolande Moreau, Ulrich Tukur, Anne Bennent, Genevieve Mnich
Rated PG ·
France and Belgium
French and German
Winner of multiple César awards in France, Séraphine is about the obscure yet endlessly fascinating artist known as Séraphine de Senlis (Séraphine Louis, 1864–1942), a simple housekeeper whose brilliantly colourful canvases adorn some of the most famous galleries in the world. Sparse and frankly realized, director Martin Provost’s fictionalized portrait of this forgotten painter is a revelation. Yolande Moreau’s performance as Séraphine is a towering accomplishment – she truly becomes the artist onscreen.
By day, Séraphine is a housekeeper whose hours are occupied with the solitary duties of laundry, cleaning and ironing. In her spare time, however, she immerses herself in the wonders of nature. There she talks to the trees, birds and insects around her. It is the only communication available to her, and her intimacy with the natural world inspires her to express her feelings on canvas. Desperately poor, she either steals the things she needs for her art or relies on what is close at hand. Alone in her room, she studiously paints wondrous canvases of flowers. Then new tenants take over the house where she works, and her life takes a turn.
The year is 1912. Wilhelm Uhde, a German art critic and collector, moves to Senlis. The locals certainly don’t take Séraphine or her painting seriously; she is, after all, just an ignorant housekeeper. But Wilhelm is struck by a painting, and is shocked to discover that it is the work of Séraphine. He eventually sets up an exhibition of her work and offers her money to free up her time to paint.
Every moment of this film matches the vibrant character of its protagonist, yet the story has its own tragic dimensions. A testament to creativity and the resilience of one woman’s spirit, Séraphine is a marvel — a celebration of art and nature and an acknowledgement of the costs involved.