Seraphine -- Film Review

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Since it was made, the French biopic "Seraphine" has taken on an eerie new resonance. This portrait of the painter Seraphine de Senlis (Yolande Moreau) -- a housekeeper who went on to create some of the most acclaimed paintings of the early 20th century -- now brings to mind the story of recent singing sensation Susan Boyle.

Further adding to the comparison is the physical resemblance between lead actress Moreau -- who won a Cesar Award for her performance -- and the pre-make-over "Britain's Got Talent" find.

Martin Provost's film tells the little-known story of the artist best known as Seraphine de Senlis (Senlis being the name of the village in which she lived and worked), who toiled as a housekeeper while furtively painting swirling canvases depicting fruits and flowers. Unable to afford supplies, she used animal blood and candle oil to augment the small amount of paint she was able to procure.

Her canvases are discovered by a famous German art critic, Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur), who happens to move to the area. He begins purchasing and championing her work, though his efforts on her behalf are interrupted by World War I.

After the war, the artist and her patron are reunited, with Seraphine finally achieving the fame and riches commensurate with her talents. Unfortunately, she's unable to handle her newfound success and begins to suffer a devastating emotional unraveling.

Sensitively exploring such issues as the relationship between sanity and creativity and the class divisions that long kept its central figure from receiving her due, "Seraphine" is a moving if somewhat lugubrious drama that benefits greatly from Moreau's powerfully complex lead performance. The actress beautifully manages the difficult feats of illuminating the darker reaches of her character's mind and the artistic fervor that drove her to create in spite of all obstacles.

Opens: Friday, June 5 (Music Box Films)
Production: T3 Prods
Cast: Yolande Moreau, Ulrich Tukur, Anne Bennent, Genevieve Mnich, Nico Rogner, Adelaide Leroux, Serge Lariviere, Francis Lebrun
Director: Martin Provost
Screenwriters: Martin Provost, Marc Abdelnour
Director of Photography: Laurent Brunet
Editor: Ludo Troch
Production designer: Nathalie Duran
Music: Michael Galasso
No rating, 125 minutes