A film as delicate, odd, and beautiful as the art it celebrates, Martin Provost’s thoughtful, closely observed biopic of early 20th Century outsider artist (and washerwoman) Séraphine de Senlis takes its sweet time.
But you ignore the slow pace, such is the power of Yolande Moreau’s mesmerising performance as dumpy Séraphine, a woman gripped by religious mania and an obsessive drive to create art: she sings hymns over powerful, almost-pulsating floral still-lives daubed in animal blood and river weed.
Provost’s subtle line on art and madness (no Lust For Life grandstanding here) contrasts Séraphine’s everyday stolidity with her transcendental painting. He also deftly twines her story with that of another outsider, gay German art dealer Wilhelm Uhde, played by Ulrich Tukur.
Roaming the damp, green landscapes of northern France with a fervour mirroring Séraphine’s ecstatic delight in nature, this small, sombre film has its own surprising intensity.