Seraphine (2008)

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Released 1-Mar-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Image
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 126:11 (Case: 125)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:18) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Martin Provost
Studio
Distributor
Music Box Films
Ovation
Starring Yolande Moreau
Ulrich Tukur
Anne Bennent
Geneviève Mnich
Nico Rogner
Adélaïde Leroux
Serge Larivière
Françoise Lebrun
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $29.95 Music Michael Galasso


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Senlis, France, 1914. Dowdy, overweight middle-aged single Frenchwoman Seraphine Louis (Yolande Moreau) makes a meagre living doing menial jobs including cleaning, washing and food preparation for Mme Duphot (Genevieve Mnich). She is two month’s behind in her rent because she spends the money she earns on paints, brushes and wood, supplemented by paints she grinds herself from the flora of Senlis; she paints canvasses inspired, she believes, by God and the angels. Seraphine is considered strange by the townspeople because she speaks to flowers and trees and her paintings of fruit and flowers are derided.

     Her circumstances change when Mme Duphot rents an apartment to German art critic, gallery owner and collector Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur) and his sister Anne-Marie (Anne Bennent) and Seraphine becomes their cleaner. Uhde was the first to discover and champion the paintings of the Modern Primitives Picasso, Braque and Rousseau in Paris; he becomes very excited when he sees some of Seraphine’s paintings. At first she is reluctant, believing she is being mocked, but he does become her patron. However, as soon as things seem to be looking up for Seraphine the Germans invade France and World War I starts; the Uhdes are forced to abandon Seraphine and Senlis and flee to Switzerland.

     It is now 1927 and Seraphine is destitute. She still paints but is now too old for the physical menial jobs she had previously performed so is living on odd jobs and handouts. The Uhdes have returned to France and are living at Chantilly. All Wilhelm’s paintings, his Picassos, Braques and Rousseaus, had been confiscated and sold by the French government during the war and he is forced to make a fresh start championing the paintings of his lover Helmut Kolle (Nico Rogner). When Anne-Marie sees an advertisement for an art show in Senlis, Wilhelm returns, finds Seraphine and again becomes her patron. Promoted by Wilhelm, Seraphine’s paintings gain a wide acceptance and for the first time she is able to indulge in the good life; to dream of buying a motor car, to buy paints and large canvas’, to put a deposit on a 12 room house and to order for herself an expensive bridal gown (a mystery in itself). But then the Wall Street Crash of 1930 destroys the art market undermining all Seraphine’s hopes and expectations and having disastrous financial, physical and mental consequences for a number of people, including Seraphine.

     Seraphine is based upon the life of the little known painter known as Seraphine de Senlis who (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) died in the Clermont Asylum for the insane. As a period biopic, Seraphine is an old fashioned film that takes a measured and leisurely approach to the subject. It looks superb, and won seven 2009 Cesar awards including awards for script, production design, costume design and cinematography. There is nothing hand held or flashy about the camerawork: the lens lingers long and lovingly upon the French countryside or the detailed interiors. Seraphine also won the Best Picture Cesar and also a Cesar for the music of Michael Galasso which is used sparingly but effectively throughout. And although director Martin Provost lost out on Best Director (to Jean-Francois Richet for the superb Public Enemy #1), Yolande Moreau did win Best Actress for her performance. This is a many layered performance with very limited dialogue; without hysterics and with her only expression, eyes and gestures she portrays the gifted, simple, dowdy Seraphine in all her expectations, triumphs and disappointments. It is a brave and compelling performance.

     Seraphine is a lovingly crafted, painstakingly detailed period film. It looks and sounds beautiful, and revolves around a wonderful multi-layered performance by Yolande Moreau that deservedly won her the Best Actress Cesar in 2009.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Seraphine is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The film looks great. Sharpness, contrast, brightness and skin tones are natural, blacks solid and shadow detail fine. The colours are not vibrant but are muted and very natural allowing the greens of the French countryside to be seen to full effect. Costumes are predominately in earthy tones adding to the natural period look of the film.

     There is occasional grain but I did not notice any film artefacts. The layer change at 60:18 caused only a tiny pause.

     The English subtitles are in a yellow font in American English. I did not notice any obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice between French dts 5.1 at 768 Kbps or Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps. I did switch between the two. For a change I prefer the Dolby Digital. It seemed to be crisper and better defined. The dts seemed to be flatter, but as this is very much a film without bangs or explosions, just dialogue, music and effects such as wind and rain, both tracks did an effective job. Dialogue was clear, the surrounds are used for music and weather effects and the sub woofer did provide minor support for the music and wind.

     The music by Michael Galasso won a Cesar award. It is used quite sparingly, in fact is largely absent in the first 15 minutes of the film, but when the score is heard it provides a lush, effective, support for the visuals.

     Lip synchronisation is fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Original Trailer (1:56)

Image Gallery

     9 silent film stills. The remote must be used to advance to the next image.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     From reports, the Region 2 French release has 5.1 and 2.0 audio, but not the dts track, and includes a making of, press conference and filmographies. However, there are no English subtitles. The Region 1 version, according to the review I read, has 2.0 audio and no extras. For English speakers, Region 4 is the best choice.

Summary

Seraphine is a lovingly crafted, painstakingly detailed period film that revolves around a multi-layered performance by Yolande Moreau that deservedly won her the Best Actress Cesar in 2009. Video and audio are very good. Minimal extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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NTSC conversion? - REPLY POSTED