Friday, July 17, 2009



Séraphine What qualifies somebody to be an artist? And what makes their works to be art? Of course talent and creative expression are crucial, even they are subjective to the eyes of beholders. However, if these eyes belong to a famous art critic and collector, it will make a huge difference to the individual. Unfortunately, it's the ultimate verdict for some individuals' works to be regarded as art or not (ever been to SFMOMA?). The life story of French painter Séraphine Louis (1864–1942) vindicates the perplexity of the art world.

Winning seven César Award (French Oscar), including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Cinematography, French writer/director Martin Provost's fictional biopic "Séraphine" (France/Belgium 2008 | 125 min.) tells an heartfelt story about this extraordinary woman.

The film begins with the 48-year-old Séraphine (Yolande Moreau) does her daily cleaning routines as a maid in Senlis in 1913. She is a religious, quiet, canny, hard-working, natural loving, and worn lady. When she returns to her little apartment that she owns back rent, she indulges herself into another wonderful world where she becomes a self-taught painter, guided by angels. Her works have been laughed at, until she meets a German art collector Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur), who also discovered Henri Rousseau and who are friends of artists such as Pablo Picasso and George Braque. Uhde starts to support Séraphine and encourage her to paint more.

Wilhelm Uhde's support to Séraphine is disrupted by the war, but Séraphine continues to paint when she is not cleaning. Tragically, after they reconnected in 1927, Séraphine's mind tragically slips away, but not her work, nor her dedication and passion to painting.


The film is captivating, humorous, and sometimes poignant. It doesn't really focus on understanding Séraphine's art work, but it brilliantly shows us how Séraphine paints her love into her paintings. Yolande Moreau gives an exceptional performance as Séraphine. Her expressive eyes are absolutely magical to allow us to peak inside Séraphine's own world—regardless if we can comprehend her world or not, we can feel it.

In addition, almost every frame of the film can be frozen up as a postcard. It's simply breathtakingly beautiful. The long shot of Séraphine lurching toward to a tree at the end of the film will stay with us forever, a perfect portrait of her incredible life story.

"Séraphine" opening Friday, July 17 at Landmark's Clay Theater in San Francisco, Shattuck in Berkeley, Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, Rialto in Santa Rosa, and Camera 3 in San Jose.

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