In 1914, Wilhelm Uhde, a famous German art collector, rents an apartment in the town of Senlis, forty kilometers away from Paris, in order to write and to take a rest from the hectic life he has been living in the capital. The cleaning lady is a rather rough-and-ready forty-year-old woman who is the laughing stock of others. One day, Wilhelm who has been invited by his landlady, notices a small painting lying about in her living room. He is stunned to learn that the artist is no other than Séraphine. Written by
Seraphine Loius was an impoverished, self-taught French painter who claimed to be inspired directly by God. This film of her life depicts her partly in the obvious way (as an idiot-savant), but also as a woman utterly determined, with a keen sense of her own worth and an acute sensitivity to her absence of value in the eyes of others. This characterisation gives the film its interest; but it's opening portion, depicting her early life without explanation, is almost unbearably slow and painful. The second half, in which there is more of a plot (thanks to her discovery by an art collector), is more interesting, although one shouldn't expect a happy end. While it's not a jolly film, it's a serious attempt to engage with an intriguing, awkward character; that it makes you want to see her pictures is a mark of its success.
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