Review: ‘Diary of a Chambermaid’

A look at rustic insularity in the 1920s, pic [from the novel by Octave Mirbeau] lays bare human pettiness but does it with a flair and objectivity. This makes the film funny, revealing and, overall, quite engrossing.

A look at rustic insularity in the 1920s, pic [from the novel by Octave Mirbeau] lays bare human pettiness but does it with a flair and objectivity. This makes the film funny, revealing and, overall, quite engrossing.

A bouncy, zesty, ripe 32-year-old maid (Jeanne Moreau) is on her way to a job with a landed family in the country. And a rugged lot they are. There is the father who is a foot fetishist, his sickly daughter who dreads marital duties with her rakish, skirtchasing husband, an ominous racist handyman, and an eccentric old military man next door who insists on throwing rubbish on their land because of an old feud.

The maid is soon chased by the husband and also is asked to try on old-fashioned high-button boots by the father. The latter is found dead one morning, with the boots clutched in his hands. Follows the rape of an eight-year-old girl.

Director Luis Bunuel has embroidered all this richly with revealing characterization, a feel for the period and a refusal to become moralistic or to take sides.

Moreau has the acid self-protection and engaging forthrightness to make her role brim with a bright force. Georges Geret has menace and weight as the violent fascist. Michel Piccoli is rightly contemptible as the marauding husband, while Jean Ozenne’s old, perverse landowner is a gem of taste and tact in delineation.

Diary of a Chambermaid

France - Italy

Production

Speva/Cine-Alliance/Filmsonor/Dea. Director Luis Bunuel; Producer Henri Baum (exec.); Screenplay Luis Bunuel, Jean-Claude Carriere; Camera Roger Fellous; Editor Louisette Hautecoeur; Music [none]; Art Director Georges Wakhervitch

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1964. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Jeanne Moreau Michel Piccoli Georges Geret Francoise Lugagne Daniel Ivernel Jean Ozenne
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