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TIFF 2017 Review: Mademoiselle Paradis

A historical biopic focused on images over drama

Mademoiselle Paradis is a film of pure sensuality. Telling the real story of Maria Theresia von Paradis, a blind pianist, and her relation to Dr. Franz Mesmer in 1770s Vienna, director Barbara Albert focuses on the healing methods which Mesmer used in an attempt to help Theresia see. Mesmer’s techniques, indescribable to the public and closer to magic than science, are conveyed vividly. First through touch, Theresia comes to recognize exotic objects (a seashell, a piece of coral, a delicate lace parasol), as she equally feels her way across Rococo rooms painted with lush murals. With the addition of smell and sight to Theresia’s journey, the film becomes utterly tactile, a spectacle of the senses. Despite the outlandish-yet-true story of Mesmer’s magic semi-curing a prodigy’s blindness, Mademoiselle Paradis can feel a bit slight in terms of drama. But with such visual strength and assured aesthetic sensibility, it hardly matters.

Chelsea Phillips-Carr

Chelsea Phillips-Carr is a freelance writer from Toronto. She has an MA in cinema studies.