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Diary of a Chambermaid (Criterion Collection)

Jeanne Moreau , Michel Piccoli , Luis Buñuel    Unrated   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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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 girl’s murderer. Though extremely linear for Buñuel, Diary of a Chambermaid does not lack for profound, symbolic imagery and cryptic revelations. --Rob Bracco

Product Description

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.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Buñuel's insightful story of a Chambermaid... April 22 2004
Format:DVD
Celestine (Jeanne Moreau), a street-smart Parisian woman, has recently accepted the position as a chambermaid for an aristocratic family that resides in a rural area of France. When Celestine arrives to the location of her new employer she quickly identifies the different roles of the aristocratic family and the servants. The old man and owner of the château enjoy his seclusion where he dives into his tabooed desires while the daughter is unpleasantly controlling of everything that takes place in the château. Tthe daughter's husband is constantly on the hunt for new trophies, either game or women. And the hired farmer who takes care of the estate is planning a fascist coup while the female servants are persistently oppressed by traditions and values set by social environment.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars accessible Bunuel Jan. 30 2004
By audrey
Format:DVD
Octave Mirbeau's book was first filmed by Jean Renoir, but Luis Bunuel's superior version makes the story his own as he shifts certain aspects of the novel to fit his own interests and brings in a wonderful cast, including the luminous Jeanne Moreau. Set in 1930s France, at a time when fascism was making inroads, Moreau's Celestine has come from Paris to serve a bourgeois family on their country estate. Seen through her eyes, we find decadance, eccentricity and malevolence at every turn as she copes with a fetishist, a lecher and even a murderer. Ultimately, we find that Celestine herself is also an opportunist. Or is she just a survivor?
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The gem in my DVD collection June 28 2002
By SEP
Format:DVD
The Diary of a Chambermaid is Luis Brunuel's masterpiece. Though it satirizes countless aspects of French society during the years leading up to WWII (1930, to be precise), includes several intriguing character studies, and carries off a complex plot, it still manages to captivate. Though there is an obvious political statement about fascism, Brunuel seems to have been more intent on showcasing the complacent attitudes of the bourgeoisie that allowed Europe to crumble into the throes of war.
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.
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