Yolande Moreau plays the industrious but touched washerwoman-turned-painter Seraphine de Senlis (Seraphine Louis) with an open-faced conviction that is almost unnerving in its intensity. In Seraphine, Martin Provost's painterly story of the painter's life, Moreau makes this woman both a bio-film archetype and a one-of-a-kind creative spirit.
In 1914 Senlis, Seraphine is a matronly 50ish cook and house-cleaner, a free-spirit who wanders the fields in her bare feet and sings hymns in Latin (she used to be a nun) while trudging from one odd job to the next. For those jobs, she has her price and sticks to it. No, she's not saving up to make rent. She's a regular at the painters' supply shop.
Little does the renowned German art critic and dealer Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur) suspect that the woman making him tea might be his next "modern primitives" discovery. Alas, a World War may get in the way of fame and fortune.
Provost's film is a sanitized and time-compressed (Uhde actually discovered her years before World War I, and told people she was dead years before her actual death) account of Seraphine's life and work. But the glories of the French countryside were never more beautiful than in this film that celebrates a woman who saw that beauty.
Screening at: 3 p.m. Friday, April 3, Regal; 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 5, Regal.