Diary of a Chambermaid (1964 film)  

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Diary of a Chambermaid (Le journal d'une femme de chambre) is a 1964 drama film. It is one of several French films made by Spanish-born filmmaker Luis Buñuel but lacks the surrealist imagery and plot twists of his other films. It stars Jeanne Moreau as a chambermaid who uses her feminine charms to control and advance her situation, in a social setting of corruption, violence, sexual obsession and perversion.

This was the first screenwriting collaboration between Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière, which would later produce his well known Belle de Jour (1967), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). The two extensively reworked the 1900 novel of the same name by Octave Mirbeau, that had been given a more literal treatment in its second film adaptation, made in Hollywood in 1946, directed by Jean Renoir.

Plot

A stylish, attractive young woman, Célestine (Jeanne Moreau), arrives from Paris to become chambermaid for an odd family at their country chateau. The period is mid-1930s, and the populace is astir with extremist politics, right and left. The Monteil's household consists of a childless couple, the frigid wife's elderly, genteel father, and several servants, including Joseph the groom (Georges Géret) who's a rightist, nationalist, anti-Semitic, violent man. The wife (Françoise Lugagne) runs a rigidly tidy house; she would like to please her virile husband physically, but cannot, due to pelvic "pain." M. Monteil (Michel Piccoli) amuses himself by hunting small game and pursuing all the females within range – the previous chambermaid seems to have left pregnant and had to be "bought off."

The wife's father amuses himself with his collection of racy postcards and novels, and a closet full of women's shoes and boots, that he likes his chambermaids to model. Their next-door neighbor (Daniel Ivernel) is a burly, retired Army officer, with a chubby maid/mistress (Gilberte Géniat), and a violent streak of his own – he likes to throw refuse and stones over the fence, to the great annoyance of M. Monteil. Célestine almost immediately finds her role in the house completely defined by the sexual proclivities of the other characters, and she proceeds to use her own considerable sexual assets to accomplish her goals.

The elderly father, M. Rabour (Jean Ozenne), is found dead in bed, dissheveled, clutching some boots that Célestine had worn earlier that evening; and Célestine decides to leave the job the next day. Previously, however, she had become motherly and protective of a sweet pre-pubescent girl named Claire (Dominique Sauvage) who visited the house; after the girl's raped and mutilated body is found in a nearby wood, Célestine decides to stay on at the job, in order to get revenge on the murderer. She quickly finds reason to suspect the groom Joseph. She seduces and promises to marry him and join him to run a café in Cherbourg, so he will confess the crime to her, which he does not. She then contrives and plants evidence to implicate him in the girl's murder. He is arrested, but eventually released for lack of solid evidence, although there is a suggestion that the real reason is his nativist political activism. Meanwhile Célestine agrees to marry the elderly ex-Army-officer neighbor, and after the marriage, we see him serving her breakfast in bed and obeying her commands. The final scene shows a crowd of nationalistic men marching past the Cherbourg café run by Joseph, who has another woman now and is shouting rightist slogans.

Cast




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