Seraphine may be one of the spookiest, most unsettling films ever made about the hazy line between art and madness. That's a theme the movies have done to death, yet it finds new life in the title performance by Yolande Moreau.
Provost and cowriter Marc Abdelnour explore the mutable boundaries between spirituality, naivete, genius, and madness, showing how the two outsiders and polar opposites cultivated a mutual understanding.
The character's fleeting success in the art world, her moody naivete and childlike reverence for both the natural and religious worlds, is conveyed with such tenderness and totality that it's almost heartbreaking to behold.
What makes this slow, intense film so compelling is its persuasive creation of complex characters: You scarcely believe Moreau is an actor and that the film isn't, on some level, archival footage of the real painter.
The film is a commendably worthy endeavor, and I am almost ashamed that my ingrained hedonistic attitude toward movies prevents me from recommending Seraphine more enthusiastically.
Director Martin Provost has brought the true story of Seraphine de Senlis to to the screen with elegant simplicity. A gorgeous film to watch, thanks to cinematographer Laurent Brunet, the pastoral settings are especially satisfying.
Relies heavily on Moreau's gripping, continually surprising performance to effectively convey the oracular urgency and fractured, Dionysian mentality of Seraphine de Senlis and her work.
The characterization is deft, the acting is superb, and the production values are high. If there's a dryness to the way the story is told, that's because director Martin Provost has shifted his focus toward intellectual, not emotional, satisfaction.