Synopsis: “Seraphine” recounts the tragic story of French naïve painter Séraphine Louis aka Séraphine de Senlis (1864-1942), a humble servant who becomes a gifted self-taught painter. Discovered by prominent critic and collector William Uhde, she came to prominence between the wars grouped with other naïve painters like Henri Rouseau only to descend into madness and obscurity with the onset of the Great Depression and World War II. [Synopsis courtesy of Music Box Films]
Round-up: "In 'Seraphine,' Provost laudably avoids the merely romantic image of the artist-visionary," writes Leo Goldsmith in his review for indieWIRE. "Instead, and through Yolande Moreau’s ... astonishing performance in the title role, Seraphine is volatile, pitiable, comic, and crazed, but she is never simply a starry-eyed dreamer whom folks just don’t understand." He also notes however, that despite "the kaleidoscopic fire of Seraphine’s artistic vision, it’s a wonder that Provost’s film cleaves so closely to the conventions of the big-budget, cinema de qualite biopic... It errs on the side of the tasteful, dabbling only with lightly symbolic images and a rapt appreciation for the sights and especially the sounds of nature." Despite Goldsmith's reservations, the film--and Yolande Moreau's performance--has found acclaim from critics. "Powered by a performance of a lifetime by Belgium-born actress Moreau, it allows us to meet this singular person on her own terms. It permits us to see how ordinary life, extraordinary artistic ability and eccentric mental states can and do exist in the same person," says Kenneth Turan for the LA Times and David Edelstein, writing for New York Magazine, writes that "'Séraphine' is one of the most evocative films about an artist I've ever seen--and in its treatment of madness one of the least condescending." On Moreau's performance, the Village Voice's Ella Taylor notes that "The actress brings a potent restraint to this beady-eyed, unkempt, and all but feral outcast who seethes with inner struggle between strength and appalling vulnerability. Séraphine's dependence on her patron—a cultivated but emotionally detached homosexual, who knew a fellow outsider when he saw one but came and went in her life without warning—is almost as unbearably moving as her inevitable unraveling—when money and fame cut the artist off from her creative wellsprings and drove her over the edge," while A.O. Scott calls it "passionate, humorous and heartbreaking." Scott observes that while the film doesn't wholly avoid the "usual banal biopic logic," "its energies are devoted, for the most part, not to dissecting childhood traumas or recirculating stale cultural gossip, but rather to examining the alchemy by which perception is transformed into vision."