Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Why We Watch Movies: Two for the Ages

Those of us who love movies--like those of us who love books--do so because of that rare one we run across upon occasion. Life is a constant search for something that moves us as a good film or book can.

Tonight, I felt like I had found the golden fleece: two movies that will forever hover close to my permanent Top 10. They are "Seraphine" and "The Butterfly," both French, both available streaming on Netflix.

The writing (Martin Abdelnour and Martin Proust for "Seraphine" and Eric Bess and Mackye Gruber for "The Butterfly") and moviemaking in each are simply jaw-dropping.

"Seraphine" (from 2008) is the true story of a French artist (Seraphine Louis played by Yolonde Moreau) of the first third of the 20th Century, a woman who cleaned houses in middle age and painted because she felt it was God's calling. She made her own paint and put it on pieces of wood, creating works that were far ahead of her time and unseen until a critic Wilhelm Uhde (played by Ulrich Tukur) discovered her.

This is a quiet, slow story, full of atmosphere, depth and extraordinary acting and directing by, respectively, Moreau and Martin Proust. Hers is a quiet, methodical tour de force, one worthy in any year of an Oscar. This is a fulfilling movie, sad though it is, of a woman following her passion as if it were her religion.

"The Butterfly" (2002) is another underplayed story of love--this between an old man and a little girl, both looking for something to fill that hole life has left in them. Michel Serrault is the old man and Claire Bouanich the heart-grabbing, red-haired little girl who are the perfect pair to go wandering off in the French mountains to find a rare Isabella butterfly. The little girl's mother is neglectful, which is how this pairing begins. It ends with everybody finding something they hadn't had: trust and love.

Fulfilling movies in the best sense. What a nice evening this was. And to think that I had started out with the notion of watching Jean Reno crack some organized French criminals' heads.

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