Superb portrait of tragic life

Superb portrait of tragic life

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By Lau Kit-wai

Directed by Martin Provost, Seraphine is a beautiful portrait of an unhappy artist swathed in talent and then, sadly, in madness.

The film introduces Seraphine (Yolande Moreau) as an eccentric cleaning lady in a town outside Paris. A social outcast, she spends the day mopping floors, then devotes the night-time to obsessively painting still lifes.

Her unusual talent is recognised by Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur), the German art collector and critic who discovered Picasso. He becomes Seraphine's patron, but her career is cut short by mental illness, which confines her to an asylum until her death.

The movie is noteworthy for Moreau's marvellous, subtle performance. Playing a mad genius is risky business for many actors, who tend to overact. But Moreau is blessed with the talent of reflecting her character's mental state through her physical bearing. Her plain face has a divine glow when her character is immersed in her art. The sight of Seraphine painting feverishly as the war rages around her is a touching statement on the transcendent power of art.

Uhde's sporadic loyalty to Seraphine, which eventually leads to her madness, is lamentable. Tukur plays his role to perfection, adding depth to a character whose self-centeredness is masked by charm and an enthusiasm for art.

The movie is a must-see for film buffs and art lovers.

YP rating: 4/5

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