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Mademoiselle Paradis

Austria/Germany 2017. Dir: Barbara Albert. 97 min. DCP

This sumptuous, sensuous historical drama from acclaimed Austrian filmmaker Barbara Albert (Northern Skirts, Free Radicals) tells the extraordinary story of an unusual musical prodigy in late-18th-century Vienna. Maria Theresia von Paradis, a gifted young harpsichordist, is gaining notice in high-society music circles, but is also something of a curiosity — as a female artist and as a blind person. Her arriviste parents, seeking a cure for her disability, place Maria in the dubious care of the dandyish Dr. Franz Mesmer — whose unorthodox theories and methods would give us the word “mesmerize.” Albert’s intelligent, ironic, fact-based film uses the era’s cruel sexual and social-class politics, and the eternal conflict between art and science, to dramatize Maria’s plight. Romanian actress Maria Dragus (Mungiu’s Graduation, Haneke’s The White Ribbon) is exquisite in the lead. In German and French with English subtitles.