Sunday, June 21, 2009

190) Seraphine (2008)

190) Seraphine (2008) Dir: Martin Provost Date Released: June 2009 Date Seen: June 21st, 2009 Rating: 3.25/5

For a film whose plot is grounded in a biopic formula, Seraphine, the story of the art and times of painter Seraphine de Senlis, enjoys infrequent moments of quiet intensity and beauty. Provost has an eye for composition and capably employs light and shadows to great effect. When the film quiets down long enough to be about the abstract beauty of the character's actions, it's really quite arresting (the very last scene is especially transfixing). 

More importantly, thanks to comedienne Yolande Moreau's ambling performance, even the scenes where the character emotes through shrill declamations and succumbs to the Drama of the biopic genre are made a little more tolerable. She carries an emotional weariness and a gnarled air of introspection about her that make it seem as if she's already said everything she's declaring aloud at least three times before in her head. Here, Moreau has confirmed my firm belief that she's one of the more overlooked talents in front of and behind the camera, though the role itself is merely a more sensitive treatment  of the self-congratulatory "full retard" roles that drown out a capable performer's quiet intensity with bathetic over-emoting.

Note: Though I felt the film was filled with intriguing visual nuances, I'm upset with Provost and co-writer Marc Abdelnour for their inability to see the forest for the trees. Though they prove themselves to be quite capable of leaving many of the dots in their story unconnected, they also do not know when its best to pull back and let suggestion tell us who the character is. Perhaps if they had opted to write a more experimental narrative, a possibility they occasionally flirt with but never fully embrace, the film would not have been or felt like it was 130 minutes long. 

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