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Diary of a Chambermaid (Criterion Collection)
This wicked adaptation of the Octave Mirbeau novel is classic Luis Buñuel. Jeanne Moreau is Celestine, a beautiful Parisian domestic who, upon arrival at her new job at an estate in provincial 1930s France, entrenches herself in sexual hypocrisy and scandal with her philandering employer (Buñuel regular Michel Piccoli). Filmed in luxurious black-and-white Franscope, Diary of a Chambermaid is a raw-edged tangle of fetishism and murder-and a scathing look at the burgeoning French fascism of the era.
Considered surrealist Luis Buñuel most linear film, Diary of a Chambermaid is an excellent introduction to this director's dark satirical world of social criticism. Loosely based on Mirbeau's Journal D'Une Femme de Chambre, Buñuel uses the beautiful French countryside as a backdrop to ruthlessly display his favorite subjects: Catholicism, the bourgeoisie, nationalism, and moral decay. Jeanne Moreau is Celestine, a chambermaid from Paris who takes a job at a picturesque country estate. When the body of the staff's daughter is discovered raped and murdered, Celesine does whatever is necessary to uncover the girl's killer. She quickly learns that her new employees, though apparent pillars of nouveau aristocracy, are as morally corrupt as the girls murderer. Though extremely linear for Buñuel, Diary of a Chambermaid does not lack for profound, symbolic imagery and cryptic revelations. --Rob Bracco
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Luis Buñuel's unique persona shines through in Diary of a Chambermaid as it presents politics on a grass root level. Yet, it is a very different film from his other films as it deals with a different theme and is present in a different angle than his other creations. Buñuel displays several upper-class rules and expectations, but also the hypocrisy behind the aristocratic values. For example, Buñuel shows a very realistic view of the socioeconomic oppression of women in an environment that is built on traditions and social rules. These customs are under scrutiny as Celestine silently transgresses from the norms of her society. In the end, Buñuel offers his view of an aristocratic life style and its influence on the people in it, which leaves the audience with a terrific cinematic experience that offers both insights and thoughts.
This is one of Bunuel's most accessible films. If you're interested in this director, or European film in general, this would be a great introduction. This is the first screenplay with longtime collaborator Jean-Claude Carriere, and an 18-minute interview with Carriere should add to your enjoyment of this excellent b&w dvd print. The dvd also includes a trailer, which is really a mini-interview with Moreau.
French with optional English subtitles.
Jeanne Moreau is Celestine, a beautiful Parisian chambermaid to moves to the Normandy countryside to work in the home of the wealthy Monteil family. The cast of characters she discovers there are laughable. The family patriarch, Monsieur Rabour, has a foot fetish (with which Celestine has no choice but to comply); his daughter is a frigid woman who cares about nothing more than her imported goodies (and her unvaluables too: she counts sugar cubes to make sure the staff hasn't been stealing); her husband is an amourous fiend who seeks moments of "amour fou" (mad love) with Celestine. Even Celestine's fellow servant-types have their quirks, except not so funny. Joseph, the groundskeeper, is a ruthless racist and sadist who denounces "kikes and wops," tortures animals and rapes and murders a child of whom Celestine was fond. All the while, he is active in a right-winged Facist movement to rid France of foreigners and destroy the republic.
It is the murder of young Claire, and her desire to see justice done, that keeps Celestine at the Monteil estate after her master dies (clutching a pair of shoes, no less). She quickly focuses on Joseph. She accuses him directly but fails to get a confession--though he didn't deny the act, either.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This is one of the harsher films by Luis Bunuel. In this masterpiece
Jeanne Moreau as chambermaid
tries in vain to change a society that will gloriously move from bad to... Read more
Second movie of spanish director Luis Bunuel to have the honour to enter the most praised Criterion DVD collection after THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE a few weeks ago,... Read morePublished on June 26 2001 by Daniel S.
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