Martin Provosts lyrical but bracing portrait of the early-20th-century French painter Séraphine Louis begins and ends with a quietly ecstatic shot of the artist nestling up to the rustling leaves of a majestic tree. In Provosts vision, the dirt-poor country housekeepers elemental flower paintings, derided by her bourgeois neighbors, are powered by her love of nature, the direct line she believes she has to the Virgin Mary, and the support of Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur), a German collector whose floors Séraphine scrubs with the same fervor she brings to collecting chicken blood to mix her own brand of red paint. If Séraphines untutored primitivism is a romance imposed by the filmmaker in real life, she sat in on art classes for young ladies in Paris its a compelling one that seduced an adoring French public and earned the movie seven Césars, including a well-deserved Best Actress award for Yolande Moreau. 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. Séraphines 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.
Sun., Oct. 11, 1:30 & 6 p.m., 2009