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Le journal d'une femme de chambre 1964
Description: Celestine has a fresh job as a chambermaid for the quirky M. Monteil, his wife and her father. When the father dies, Celestine decides to quit her job and leave, but when a young woman is raped and murdered, Celestine believes that the Monteils' groundskeeper, Joseph, is guilty, and stays on in order to prove it. She uses her sexuality and the promise of marriage to receive Joseph to confess -- but things do not go as planned.
Released: 09 Mar 1965 Director: Luis Buñuel Writers: Octave Mirbeau (based on the novel by), Luis Buñuel (adaptation), Jean-Claude Carrière (adaptation) Actors: Jeanne Moreau, Georges Géret, Daniel Ivernel, Françoise Lugagne Genres: Crime, Drama
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Le journal d'une femme de chambre Reviews:

Buñuel once said, "Bourgeois morality is for me immoral and to be fought. The morality founded on our most unjust social institutions, like religion, patriotism, the family, culture: briefly, what are named 'the pillars of society'."I mention this, not to alienate folks who might search such a statement offensive, but to recommend insight into his mission of view. A viewpoint vigorously defended in this anti-bourgeois, rural tale that has a kick like a mule. Buñuel's truths are just as applicable today but, by putting them in 1930s France, he sweetens the bitter pill with a coating of sex, storytelling and the reassuring fiction that 'things have maybe moved on since then.'Célestine impresses us. Intelligent, pretty and sophisticated - but she nevertheless needs to earn her living in service. She takes the train from Paris to work as a chambermaid at a country estate. In this lap of wealth, she deals with a panoply of dodgy people. A brutish handyman. A frigidly overbearing Madame Monteil. Madame's lecherous husband and her kinky father. Remarkably, none of these are portrayed as stereotypes. Characters are well fleshed out as Buñuel pits one vs another. Madame Monteil earns our sympathy as she confides sexual shortcomings to the priest, who is in turn well-meaning if hopelessly out of touch. Doddering old Monsieur Rabour, although at first shockingly abhorrent with his fixation on women's feet, probably has nothing more harmful than a shoe fetish. "Would you mind if I touch your calf?" he asks (but goes no further up her leg). Is Célestine testing a risky game? Is she a libertine? Or just one step ahead of her audience?The first half of Diary of a Chambermaid is delicious saucy comedy. Buñuel's famed surrealism, that create movies like Un Chien Andalou or L'Âge d'Or so formidable, is nowhere to be seen. Nor do we have to grapple with the distanciation of Exterminating Angel, his Brechtian masterpiece of just two years earlier. But be warned, gentle reader. The second half is not only grislier, but by the end Buñuel will have pulled the rug from under your feet. It can be a bleak experience.Quite apart from a intelligent story, Diary of a Chambermaid offers many delights, both to casual viewers and serious movie analysts. Depending on your viewpoint, Moreau's many-sided performance is either a triumph for feminism or stands feminism on its head. It strips bare the bourgeoisie and capitalist, presenting the rising tide of French fascism as xenophobic intolerance - one we can recognise as replicated in many countries or patriotic cults even today. The hypocrisy of the upper classes is one of 'fur coat and no knickers'; whereas the pious protestations of the lower ranks are shown as the facade from which they lust after the coat itself.Class-struggle is mirrored by sex-as-power. To men, sex becomes a celebration of might, whether physical, social or financial. To women, it is the potential to entrap with allure. She is everytime show and everytime unattainable. Through this implied promise of sexual gratification she bends boys to her will. And still projects an aura of 'purity'. Our handyman tortures a goose before killing it – rather horrible, but in a method does it add to his raw animal charm? And is Buñuel really just saying a story? Or is he manipulating his audience to drive the mission home?This is also Buñuel's only movie made in anamorphic widescreen format. Although not showy, the cinematography is powerful. Credits launch to the sound of a rushing steam train. We watch, through Célestine's eyes, the countryside flash by. A wide angle lens increases the sense of movement, as if we are propelled by an unstoppable force.When Joseph tries to kiss Célestine at night by the bonfire, his posture is that of a vampire. A snail crawling across the a dead and violated body in the woods is as vivid and shocking as anything from Buñuel's earlier catalogue of slit eyeballs and dead donkeys. But it is Buñuel's acerbic vision of all that is wrong, in all layers of society, that is so chilling.At one point, Monsieur Rabour is reading the French creator JK Huysmans. Huysman's view of the globe was as pessimistic as Buñuel, but it is Buñuel that makes it so all-encompassing. The festering fascist mob who cheer for Chiappe in our film, are honouring the same chief of police who prohibited Buñuel's L'Âge d'Or (after fascists destroyed the cinema where it was being shown). There were several governments that liked Buñuel, and we can see that the feeling was mutual.The movie is more political than it is entertaining, which may alienate some viewers who begin off liking it. Even the game seems cynical – I don't recall any recommendation of her keeping a journal. Diary of a Chambermaid is a nice car for Moreau, who gets to enjoy so many characters in one. A criticism often levelled at mainstream cinema is that girls tend to be decoration in male-driven plots. Célestine (or 'Marie' as she is named in other dig at Catholic - or class - depersonalisation) doesn't so much take over the driving seat as recommend a fresh perspective from which she is in control. Audiences will divide on whether they ultimately like her or not.Things may have moved on. Domestic service is less harsh in most parts of the globe where it survives today. Fascism has been replaced with virulent if not yet such obvious forms of rampant and aggressive nationalism. Sex is not everytime a minigame of power. But forces of immorality still pose in white robes and high office. 'Commoners' still aspire to the evils they decry. The purity of a saint is maybe required to 'enjoy' Diary of a Chambermaid. But Buñuel stood up for his beliefs. Today, most viewers may content themselves with standing up for his cinematic skills.


In the 30's, the witty, literate and quite sophisticated chambermaid Céléstine (Jeanne Moreau) comes from Paris to work for the dysfunctional Monteil family in the country, more specifically for the fetishist on shoes and maniac for cleaning Monsieur Rabour (Jean Ozenne). His daughter and mistress of the house Madame Monteil (Françoise Lugagne) is a frigid and arrogant woman, and her husband, Monsieur Monteil (Michel Piccoli), is a hunter and also a wolf with their maids. Their fascist and rude worker Joseph (Georges Géret) feels a sexual attraction for Céléstine, but she repels him. Their neighbor, Captain Mauger (Daniel Ivernel), has a trouble with the Monteils and dumps his garbage in their yard, but Céléstine talks to him and is motive of gossips. When Monsieur Rabour unexpectedly dies, Céléstine quits her job but while in the train station, she finds that the woman Claire was found raped and murdered by the police. Céléstine returns to her job convinced that Joseph killed the tiny woman and trying to search evidences vs him."Le Journal d'une Femme de Chambre" is a delicious film of undefined category – drama, black comedy, adventure? – where Luis Buñuel again exposes war of classes, hypocrisy of both the bourgeois and the working class, a historical moment in France with the fascism growing, the ridiculous role of the clerical and an unsolved murder case. The storyline is centered in Céléstine, but the motives why a girl with her profile accepts a job in a rural zone is never clear. The identity of the rapist and assassin of Claire is also not disclosed, there is only a powerful insinuation that Joseph killed the girl. The storyline is very ironic, like for example when Monsieur Monteil is informed that Céléstine and Joseph will marry and requires the sexual favors from Marianne; or the weird fetishism of Monsieur Rabour; or the priest asking for a fresh roof for the church to Madame Monteil; or the conclusion with Captain Mauger changing his will and serving the mistress and smart Céléstine on their bed. My vote is seven.Title (Brazil): "O Diário de uma Camareira" ("The Diary of a Chambermaid")


This is my favourite Buñel film. The storyline is stunningly presented, an absolute work of art, unbelievably subtle but everytime concrete. It is like a nice symphony: each note is perfect.Surprisingly (considering the title) Le journal d'une femme de chambre is not about sex, nor is it a journal for that matter. It is about politics, sexual politics of course, but also domestic politics, manor politics, and nation-state politics. The time is the thirties as fascism moves toward its mesmerizing stranglehold on a decadent Europe. The zone is France (Normandy, I imagine) where the republicans keep power. In the roads are those who would be brown suits and among them is Joseph (Georges Geret), groundskeeper for a petite bourgeois family of degenerate eccentrics. He is an incipient Nazi, a xenophobic anti-Semitic boy who worships brute force, an ignorant boy that each French movie-goer knows will be a Nazi-collaborator once France is under the occupation.The storyline is seen from the mission of view of Celestine, a chambermaid of some sophistication (and an abiding, but understandable duplicity), a Parisian who has come to work for the family in the country. She is played by the incomparable Jeanne Moreau of the plastic face, a girl of many guises, many moods and an ability to depict with a glance any emotion. She is a nice star of the French scene and screen who plays the part effortlessly, with finesse and a fine subtlety. The screenplay by Buñel and the brilliant Jean-Claude Carriere (who penned so many outstanding films, Bell de Jour (1967), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), Valmont (1989), The Ogre (1996), etc.) is an adaptation of the novel by Octave Mirbeau. There is a Hollywood movie of the same name starring Paulette Goddard, Burgess Meredith and Judith Anderson, directed by Jean Renoir that I haven't seen, released in 1946. I understand the treatment was more comedic and conventional.Surrealist Luis Buñel's movie is perhaps greatest described as a comédie noire, a category antecedent to the familiar (and somewhat similar) movie noir. In the latter the comedy is usually incidental and there is no attempt at any nice philosophic or symbolic significance. Here Buñel not only makes a statement about the nature of the relationship between bourgeois Europe in the thirties and fascism, but even delves into the primeval nature of girls and gives us a sharp look at a woman's zone in bourgeois society. Celestine is duplicitous because she has to be to survive. She uses boys the method the society uses her.Be sure and pay close attention to the final stage inside and outside the café and consider the implications of what is being shown. What is being suggested? Will Joseph finally receive the punishment he so richly deserves? Or did Celestine create the choice she made out of fear? Is the union between Joseph and Celestine symbolic of that between the fascists and Europe?For those interested in this last theme I highly suggest Vittoria De Sica's brilliant The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1971).(Note: Over 500 of my film reviews are actually accessible in my ebook "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Trust I Swallowed the Remote!" Receive it at Amazon!)



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