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8/10
A real heroine - or not.
Chris_Docker23 May 2008
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 called 'the pillars of society'."

I mention this, not to alienate people who might find such a statement offensive, but to suggest insight into his point 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, attractive 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 against 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 playing a dangerous game? Is she a libertine? Or just one step ahead of her audience?

The first half of Diary of a Chambermaid is delightful saucy comedy. Buñuel's famed surrealism, that make films 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 clever story, Diary of a Chambermaid offers many delights, both to casual viewers and serious film 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 always present and always unattainable. Through this implied promise of sexual gratification she bends men to her will. And still projects an aura of 'purity'. Our handyman tortures a goose before killing it – rather horrible, but in a way does it add to his raw animal charm? And is Buñuel really just telling a story? Or is he manipulating his audience to drive the point home?

This is also Buñuel's only film made in anamorphic widescreen format. Although not showy, the cinematography is powerful. Credits open 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 author JK Huysmans. Huysman's view of the world 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 few governments that liked Buñuel, and we can see that the feeling was mutual.

The film is more political than it is entertaining, which may alienate some viewers who start off liking it. Even the title seems cynical – I don't recall any suggestion of her keeping a journal. Diary of a Chambermaid is a great vehicle for Moreau, who gets to play so many characters in one. A criticism often levelled at mainstream cinema is that women tend to be decoration in male-driven plots. Célestine (or 'Marie' as she is called in another dig at Catholic - or class - depersonalisation) doesn't so much take over the driving seat as suggest a new 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 world where it survives today. Fascism has been replaced with virulent if not yet such obvious forms of rampant and aggressive nationalism. Sex is not always a game 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 needed 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.
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7/10
Fight of Classes, Hypocrisy, Fascism, Clerical and Murder
claudio_carvalho12 January 2008
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 problem 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 girl Claire was found raped and murdered by the police. Céléstine returns to her job convinced that Joseph killed the little girl and trying to find evidences against him.

"Le Journal d'une Femme de Chambre" is a delightful movie of undefined genre – drama, black comedy, adventure? – where Luis Buñuel again exposes fight 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 story is centered in Céléstine, but the motives why a woman with her profile accepts a job in a rural area is never clear. The identity of the rapist and killer of Claire is also not disclosed, there is only a strong insinuation that Joseph killed the girl. The story 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 new 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")
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10/10
A dark comedy of brilliance
DeeNine-217 September 2002
This is my favorite Buñel film. The story is stunningly presented, an absolute work of art, unbelievably subtle but always concrete. It is like a great symphony: every 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 place is France (Normandy, I imagine) where the republicans hold power. In the streets 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 man who worships brute force, an ignorant man that every French movie-goer knows will be a Nazi-collaborator once France is under the occupation.

The story is seen from the point 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 woman of many guises, many moods and an ability to depict with a glance any emotion. She is a great star of the French stage 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 film 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 film is perhaps best described as a comédie noire, a genre antecedent to the familiar (and somewhat similar) film noir. In the latter the comedy is usually incidental and there is no attempt at any great 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 women and gives us a sharp look at a woman's place in bourgeois society. Celestine is duplicitous because she has to be to survive. She uses men the way the society uses her.

Be sure and pay close attention to the final scene inside and outside the café and consider the implications of what is being shown. What is being suggested? Will Joseph finally get the punishment he so richly deserves? Or did Celestine make 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 recommend Vittoria De Sica's brilliant The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1971).

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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9/10
Minor masterpiece? Quite the opposite!
jluis198416 March 2006
Luis Buñuel, the man considered Spain's finest filmmaker and revered master of surrealism by both critics and film historians, made a surprising change of style in the first of the series of masterpiece she did in France during his last years. Taking out his usual surrealist set-pieces, he adapts Octave Mirbeau's revered novel about social classes in a very straight-forward fashion. However, this does not mean the movie is bad as many may believe; quite the opposite, "Le Journal d'eune Femme de Chambre" is a perfect showcase of Buñuel's finest film-making style, ambiguous and stylish, like the master's own vision of life.

The plot follows Celestine (Jeanne Moreau), an urban young woman moving to country in 30s France to work as a chambermaid for the Monteils, a rich family with a few dark secrets. As soon as she arrives, problems start as she tries to adapt to her new life with the bizarre Monteils. Between the constant advances of sexually insatiable Monsieur Monteil (Michel Piccoli), the always vigilant eye of his materialist wife (Françoise Lugagne) and the shoe fetish of old Monsieur Rabour (Jean Ozenne); Celestine makes her way through this collection of living portraits of the most bizarre human nature.

With a plot like this it would easy to believe this is a movie where the high class is demonized and the poor sanctified, but this is not the case here. Buñuel makes sure to have an ambiguity in every character, even in Celestine herself. There is no black and white, just different shades of gray, in a way similar to the beautiful black & white photography he uses here.

The photography is essential in this film; not only for aesthetic purposes, it represents the dark decadent days of 30s Europe, and the pessimism latent in both rich and poor people. As I wrote above, the shades of gray match perfectly the ambiguity of a group of characters with as many virtues as flaws. Buñuel and his cast manage to create believable and realistic characters.

Jeanne Moreau gives a brilliant performance as Celestine. As the beautiful young city woman highly intelligent and not without aspirations, her character has enough room to let her shine, and she really makes the most of it. Equally brilliant is Georges Géret as Joseph, the tough gardener with fascist ideals that has a secret agenda. The rest of the cast is also very good and together with the witty script complete a superb character-driven movie.

Buñuel's masterful direction creates a film that, while completely focused on the characters, is still filled with his usual symbolism. The edition and the camera-work are superb and way the camera seems to flow inside the house gives the film a voyeuristic feeling. No wonder why Buñuel consider it a very erotic film.

While many people consider this movie as one of his "lesser works", I consider it to be quite underrated, as it proved that Buñuel was a master not only of surrealism, but of film-making in general. 9/10
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no concessions
ali-178 September 1999
The best thing about Bunuel is his ruthless lucidity, and it's thoroughly on display here. All his films start from the conviction that no one is to be pitied - or even if they are, Bunuel, like life, will not oblige, and neither the audience nor the person concerned should expect it of them. Which is not to say that all abuses are right - the film postulates that between fascist and violent criminal there is little difference, and then, true to lucid form, makes it clear at the end that evil does *not* automatically bring about its own destruction; a fact not to be lamented but fought over. Bunuel said he thought it was his most erotic film. It's not an unreasonable claim. There's not a single sex scene. Go figure.
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A brilliant performance from Jean Moreau is just one of many highlights in what could be Bunuel's most underrated movie.
Infofreak20 July 2003
Bunuel's 'Diary Of A Chambermaid' was released in between two of his surreal masterpieces 'The Exterminating Angel' and 'Simon Of The Desert'. It is, on the surface at least, a lot more conventional as either of those, maybe that's why it doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. I don't know why it is rarely mentioned when people discuss the very best of Bunuel, but for me it's almost as great as 'Viridiana' and 'Belle De Jour'. The story was previously filmed by Renoir in the 1940s, but I haven't seen that version, so I can't say how different Bunuel's approach to the material is. As Bunuel claimed not to have seen it either I don't feel so bad. Jean Moreau, the beautiful star of Truffaut's 'Jules And Jim' and countless other Euro art film favourites, gives a brilliant performance as the enigmatic Celestine, maid to The Monteils, a very odd family living in pre-War France. Bunuel includes some of his usual comments about sexual deviance, and France's future under the Nazi occupation haunts the whole film, but what is most interesting to me about the picture is its subtlety and ambiguity. Like 'Belle De Jour' I think each repeated viewing will reveal more, and opinions on its meaning will depend on the individual viewer. Personally I'm still exploring Bunuel's extraordinary body of work. It is exciting doing so. I've probably only seen a third of his output so far, but I've yet to see a movie made by him that is less than fascinating. 'Diary Of A Chambermaid' just might be his most underrated film. I highly recommend it.
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7/10
Uneven
kenjha3 April 2009
A young woman reports to work as a chambermaid at the residence of an eccentric family in the French countryside. Moreau is fine as the maid, a strong-willed woman who attracts the attention of practically every man in the household and neighborhood. Geret as a servant and Piccoli as the testosterone-laden man of the house also turn in notable performances. In one of his more accessible films, Bunuel creates some beautiful imagery with his wide-screen black and white cinematography. However, the script is uneven, with the plot point concerning the rape and murder of a child mixing uneasily with the political and comedic elements. The conclusion is abrupt and unsatisfying.
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Finally a Bunuel film I can make sense of! Oh, nevermind.
Greedorr31 October 1998
This is the most straight-forward film I've seen by the surrealist master Bunuel, and despite its cryptic turn in the final moments, is funny, chilling, and a bit nasty. The story follows an urbane chambermaid from Paris who comes to work at the country estate of a repressed bourgeosie family. She weathers passes from every man in sight and deflects them, but for morally ambiguous reasons. Moral ambiguity is rampant, as it is so often in Bunuel's films, and spread liberally amongst all classes. It's subtly a film about selling out, except that nobody seemed to have any principles to begin with. Good fun. Now tell me what the ending was all about.
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DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID: Comparison between 1946 and 1964 Film Versions
Bunuel197613 June 2004
I will say outright that not only is Luis Bunuel my favorite film director but I also consider him one of the ten of the all-time greatest. Rarely did a renowned film-maker make such a remarkable comeback after years of exile as Bunuel did with LOS OLVIDADOS (1950) and, even rarer still, did one director have such a sustained series of masterworks released towards the twilight of his career. Having said all this, however, I think that LE JOURNAL D'UNE FEMME DA CHAMBRE aka DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID (1964) is the weakest of the final ten feature films Bunuel made during the most fruitful period of his career (between 1961 and 1977) – if such a choice were to be made, that is.

Don't get me wrong; I do think that LE JOURNAL is an excellent film and would probably be considered a bona-fide masterpiece if it were made by a lesser director. There is much to enjoy in the film: Jeanne Moreau's superb central performance as the opportunistic Celestine stricken by an unexpected sense of moral duty prompting her to nail the killer of the child even if she has to marry him to do so; Michel Piccoli's hilarious turn as the eternally insatiable but perennially unsatisfied master of the household who, when his sexual advances towards Celestine are turned down by the latter, has to make do with the ugly-looking house-maid; the aged father-in-law who invites Celestine into his room to read for him, all the while indulging in his foot fetish; the sadistic manservant who thinks nothing of violating and murdering innocent little girls while nurturing dreams of sealing his independence with the purchase of a pub all his own and with Celestine as his partner; the eccentric neighbour who sabotages their garden at every turn and yet yearns for Celestine's companionship, etc. Bunuel offers a typically scathing satire of the bourgeoisie here and, as has already been stated by others in this thread, also shows that he is adept at utilizing the widescreen format despite this being his first and only stab at it, as well as imbuing seemingly trivial and innocent sequences with a subtly perverse touch of subversion.

Even so, I do tend to generally agree with eminent film critic Leslie Halliwell's verdict on this particular film: 'Interesting but not especially successful Bunuel version; the subject is certainly up his street but the novel (by Octave Mirbeau) seems to restrict him'. I found the ending incomprehensible and disappointing myself at first but now I can appreciate not only its irony but its audacity. I have now watched the film three times – twice on VHS and once on Criterion's DVD – and I must say that it does improve with each viewing.

I don't know if anyone of you has seen Jean Renoir's 1946 US film version but somehow I actually prefer it to Bunuel's. I can't say I concur with Halliwell's review this time around dismissing as it did Renoir's film: 'Hollywood notables were all at sea in this wholly artificial and unpersuasive adaptation of a minor classic'! Leonard Maltin, a well-known US film critic, didn't like it much either saying that it was an 'uneasy attempt at a Continental-style romantic comedy…tries hard but never really sure of what it wants to be…(the cast) do their best to liven things'! Based on these two capsule reviews I was hardly expecting it to be a patch on the Bunuel version but I nevertheless purchased the PAL VHS (issued by 4 Front but subsequently deleted) since it was quite cheap and, after all, medium Renoir (another of my favorites, by the way) is better than many other film-makers around!

But, surprisingly, what could have easily been a inconsequential and frothy comedy of manners (the result of the typically sanitized Hollywood rewrites of subversive European literature) turned out to be an unprecedented black comedy with that uniquely French bleak outlook of things. Paulette Goddard plays Celestine in this one and she has probably never been better. In fact, as was also the case with the later Bunuel adaptation, the performances here are all first-rate: Hurd Hatfield as the idealistic young son who falls hopelessly in love with Celestine; Judith Anderson as the lady of the house firmly in control of every situation but with some strange alliances of her own; Irene Ryan as a timid scullery maid; Reginald Owen as the weak-willed master of the house perpetually harassed by his wife's demands; and particularly Burgess Meredith (who also wrote the screenplay!) as the half-crazed and shell-shocked retired Army Captain who is their neighbor; but especially Francis Lederer whose portrayal of the devilish manservant Joseph lusting after Celestine while scheming behind the back of his oppressive masters is quite chilling.

Doing some more reading on this film after watching it a couple of times, I found out that there are those who think more highly of Renoir's DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID than I was previously led to believe. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, no less an authority than Andre' Bazin, in his famous unfinished critical study of Renoir's films, goes so far as to call it a masterpiece and the finest of all the films Renoir made in America between 1941 and 1947. Well, who am I to argue? I do recommend that you seek it out if you have the chance if only to see how it compares with the more readily available Bunuel version.

The thing which struck me most when comparing these two film versions is how different the plot-line actually is from one film to the other. I haven't read the book so I can't say which is the more legitimate one but the differences are quite noteworthy: while there is no child murder in the Renoir version, Joseph does get to kill the eccentric neighbor; there is no handsome young master in Bunuel's version; there is no aged patriarch in Renoir's version; Joseph does not survive to see the realization of his dreams in the Renoir version but rather gets himself slightly killed in a climactic fight in the city streets with Celestine's young pretender, etc. I think it would be a worthwhile exercise if I were to get my hands on Octave Mirbeau's original novel some day!

As a matter of fact, I think a similarly fascinating comparison could be made between (incidentally, another favorite director of mine) Josef von Sternberg's final film with Marlene Dietrich, THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN (1935) and Luis Bunuel's cinematic swan song, CET OBSCUR OBJET DU DESIR aka THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE (1977) – both of which were adapted from the same source material: Pierre Louys' 'La Femme Et Le Pantin'.
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9/10
Excellent film:
Galina_movie_fan13 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I am surprised that the film has been often mentioned as Bunuel's minor film or even the closest to failure he'd come. I found it excellent - dark and cynical, funny and thought provoking. It's got everything I love Bunuel's films for – sinister atmosphere, darker than dark humor, the strange characters living lives of sexual, religious, and social repressions. Jeanne Moreau, one of the greatest actresses France ever produced, as a titular chambermaid, Celestine adds to the film's many pleasures. Bunuel and his screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière have transported the Octave Mirbeau's novel from the 19th century to the 1930s – the epoch of Bunuel's first sojourn in France where he made his first two films. Celestine, a sexy and cool Parisian takes a job as a chambermaid to a bourgeois, provincial family with enough skeletons in the closet for a small cemetery. The irritable and arrogant wife is frigid, her husband (hilarious turn by Michel Piccoli) chases anything in skirt and her nice and well mannered father is a shoe-fetishist. There is also a neighbor, an ex-officer who hates Monteils and loves damaging and breaking his neighbors' things and property.

"Diary of a Chambermaid" (among many things) was able to show the absolute evil on the raise in the character of Joseph, the farm-laborer, who is sexually attracted to Celestine, a cruel, cold-blooded rapist-murderer and the fascist in such subtle yet scary way that Bertolucci should have watched and studied it for his "1900".
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8/10
Two times a week? Mon Dieu!
lastliberal26 June 2008
This is only my second Bunel film (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie), and I am fascinated with the way he portrays the upper crust. here we have an odd family with some strange habits. Didn't you always think they were like that. It's the old joke about how you can determine class bu how two couples sit in a car. Lower class - men in front and women in the back; middle class husbands and wives sit together; upper class husbands sit with the other's wife.

Show fetishes, randy husbands, cold wives, rape and murder are all here amidst a fascist France. They are always going on about the republicans, ours would fit right in with the anti-semitism and xenophobia.

Among all this is the classic acting of Jeanne Moreau, a classy chambermaid, who is even willing to marry a fascist to prove him guilty of murder and rape. In the end, she turns out to be just an opportunist.

It would probably be more enjoyable knowing more about 1930s France, but it was still a classic.
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8/10
Celestine
jotix1002 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Luis Bunuel directed this film right after "The Exterminating Angel", and before "Simon of the Desert". Working with his collaborator, Jean-Claude Carriere, Bunuel adapted Octave Mirbeau's novel, which by the way, had already been brought to the screen by Jean Renoir, years before this film went into production. This is what could be considered Luis Bunuel's most realistic work, as he tells a straight forward story with only slight detours into the realm of his beloved surrealism.

"Diary of a Chambermaid", which takes place at the end of the XIX century in the novel, is set in rural France in the early thirties. There is a rise in anti Jewish feelings as expressed by what the gardener and driver Joseph expresses himself without shame. Mr. Bunuel also makes fun at his own expense by having a local political figure condemn his earlier film "L'age d'or".

Bunuel's target were always the bourgeoisie and the clergy. Both of them are represented in the movie by the Monteil's household and the family priest, who comes to the house and knows about Monsieur Monteil's sexual escapades. Celestine, the sophisticated Parisian chambermaid hired by Mme. Monteil sticks out like a sore thumb. She can give these provincials a lesson, or two, in how to conduct themselves. Mme. Monteil, a stingy woman, warns Celestine to be careful about cleaning an expensive lamp. She watches in horror as the new maid breaks it on the first day at the house as Celestine shows no remorse.

Celestine is made the object of desire by the patriarch of the family, the older M. Rabour, who insist in getting the young woman as his personal maid. He also has something else in mind: he wants her to be a sort of dominatrix by insisting that Celestine wear the stiletto heeled boots for his benefit. The older man who swears he loves butterflies quickly kills them. Celestine, who quickly catches on, gets to learn all the secrets of the Monteils. At the end, Celestine emerges much stronger, and powerful than the people that hired her.

Jeanne Moreau was the perfect choice for Celestine. She knew this woman inside out and gives a luminous performance as the maid. A young Michel Piccoli is also good as M. Monteil. Georges Geret's Joseph was perhaps his best role in which he speaks the unspeakable. Francoise Lugague and Jean Ozenne appear as Mme. Monteil and Monsieur Rabour.

The Criterion DVD has a wonderful look. Roger Fellous' wonderful black and white photography has been lovingly restored. The film is perhaps one of Luis Bunuel's most accessible movies.
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9/10
How Low Can Moreau Go?
Griffin-Mill25 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Luis Bunuel's Diary of a Chambermaid places a stone-faced Jeanne Moreau in a country house filled with perverts and watches as she drops her moral standards to inconceivable lows. To Moreau's chambermaid, it's better to suppress loathing, keep things neat and support the status quo, even in the face of the worst atrocities in human history, than to take a stand and risk repercussions.

The film begins as a typical Bunuel tale of quirky perverts (Jean Ozenne's foot fetishist, Francoise Lugagne's coldly domineering lady of the house) with a blank at its center, Jeanne Moreau's oblique, vaguely disdainful chambermaid. The cinematography adds to our sense of Moreau's opacity by avoiding closeups of her for the entire film. As Moreau indulges her perverted employers in the interest of self-preservation and personal gain, Bunuel throws successively greater moral hurdles in front of her, culminating in the murder of a child, and she stoops to accept each one.

If you think that overlooking a brutal child murderer is the worst Moreau can do, just wait - the hulking, monstrous Georges Geret's reflexive anti-Semitism, hinted at in earlier dialogue, snaps into focus in the film's final scenes, which directly correlate Moreau's willingness to lower her standards with France's surrender to the genocidal Nazis in World War II.

A chilling and brutal - if emotionally distant - sermon, part anguished howl and part self-satisfied wink, the film is one of Bunuel's very best.
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Could Jeanne Moreau be l'Ange Exterminateur?
dbdumonteil29 September 2003
L'ange exterminateur",Bunuel's precedent work had puzzled the audience.The director himself said:"the best explanation for this movie is that there is none."

"Le journal d'une femme de chambre" is a return to a more accessible style.It depicts a rotten microcosm where Jeanne Moreau might come as an ange exterminateur.Bunuel's favorite subjects are all here:the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie,here represented by a ludicrous threesome : a husband (Piccoli) whose only pastime is sex,his holier-than-thou wife who tells the priest her husband is so lecherous he wants to make "it" twice a...week!,and the old father,fetishist to the core who enjoys the shiny boots of leather.

In parallel,Bunuel shows a sinister gamekeeper(probably Georges Géret's best part),a little girl's assassin.This character , a right wing diehard, is not a man from a distant past,he's still going on in today's France where some people keep on screaming " death to the scum" In his room full of"long live the army" posters,he still thinks he's got God on his side as he wants to relieve the world of "inferior " races such as the Jews.This character is one of the most obnoxious in the whole Bunuel canon.

Bunuel's sexual symbols are always here :snails on the raped girl's thighs ;the old man,dead in his bed,clutching his dear boots.The two scenes pack a real wallop for they are placed side by side.

Jeanne Moreau does not look like a chamber maid (a character tells her so).She 's not like the mighty ones and the poor ones around her,her almost deadpan attitude -and the way she reads the old man's book- speaks volumes .And even if the sinners escape unharmed, the last picture heralds the coming of the exterminating angel.
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10/10
Stunning
JasparLamarCrabb27 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Luis Buñuel's stunning film stars Jeanne Moreau & Georges Géret in a clever battle of wills. Moreau is the new chambermaid of an estate lorded over by a kinky aristocrat (with a shoe fetish) and his remarkably uptight (and very materialistic) daughter, played to the hilt by Françoise Lugagne. The daughter's husband (Michel Piccoli) is a wannabe Casanova who's impregnated some of the past help. Added to the mix is political radical Géret, who may or may not be a child killer. Buñuel really peels back a rotten onion here, with the sexy and free-spirited Moreau slowly realizing that she's in a madhouse. The director has seldom been so straightforward in his indictments. Here he takes aim at the bourgeoisie, the French government, and of course religion (one of the townspeople is quick to finger a couple of monks as murder suspects). It's a scathing film but also filled with many comic touches: Moreau's show of boredom at her at employer's fetish; the constant battle between Piccoli and blustery neighbor Daniel Ivernel; Lugagne's hen pecking nagging of Moreau NOT to break anything. It's superbly acted by all, with Moreau giving what is really an Oscar worthy performance. In addition to the great work by Laugagne, Géret is perfect as the radical/bully and Piccoli adds a lot playing against type as a real nitwit. The film's co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière plays a befuddled priest.
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7/10
Parisian chambermaid enters the bourgeois world of the French countryside of the 1920s - a world out of joint
c.j.ganter17 March 2005
As in most of his other attempts, Luis Bunuel invites the audience to take on a somewhat unusual view of the human psyche in general and of the social conventions of a certain segment of society in particular. Here it is a eccentric bourgeois family living in their secluded microcosm of a stately home in the French countryside, strangely remote from the historic upheavals going on in France and in the rest of Europe. Jeanne Moureau, starring as a Parisian chambermaid entering this microcosm almost like an alien intruder, heads a basically well-chosen cast, even though some of the minor characters remain largely undeveloped. Since the film unabashedly defies the modern(ist) tendency to closure, this disturbing portrait of the bourgeois world of the French countryside of the 1920 can be called post-modern in the true sense of the word.
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3/10
Diary of a Chambermaid
rkatrin22 July 2007
I haven't read the novel nor have I seen Renoir's movie of the same so I can't comment. Bunel's version is depressing. No one in the movie comes off well regardless of class. Every character is boringly out for themselves, there is no good, everyone is bad. The chambermaid herself is a slick goldigger without principles like everyone else in the film. She may be used by the upper class but she gets her revenge in spades. Although she wants the murderer of the young child punished she is not above reproach. The film finds nothing appealing about anything, it is a foul view of mankind. Everything and everyone is a target for Bunel's spew here. Too bad, he's no Fellini. He has no compassion and sees no higher purpose to life in this film than selfishness.
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Let It Sink In.
nnad21 September 2000
The Diary of a Chambermaid is one of Bunuel's most perverse films, in the sense that it deals with decadent behaviors and assorted execrations. The story follows a chambermaid's sojourn at a godforsaken estate, which is inhabited by a foot fetishist, a pro-Nazi brute, and an impotent father. Once confronting these oddball monsters, she must fulfil their aberrant desires in the subtlest yet disturbing ways possible. Although not imbued with his usual surrealist alchemy, Bunuel's main focus for this film is presenting a linear narrative (a la, melodramatic) as well as developing the film's character structure. The film has that `Voyeuristic intention' about it, sometimes making its viewer feel a bit agog and at other times discomforting. All goes as Bunuel had planned for this film, particularly the glossed-over B&W picture; however, the film's final scene may be a bit hazy for those with a low attention span - sometimes mine.
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10/10
Classes differences and human weaknesses have been nicely portrayed by director Luis Buñuel in 'Diary of a Chambermaid'.
FilmCriticLalitRao18 December 2015
French writer Octave Mirbeau's novel 'The diary of a Chambermaid' had achieved immense success due to its association with Dreyfuss affair.It was director Luis Buñuel's natural choice for a film where he could talk in detail about sexual perversity,class differences and human weaknesses.It can be said with certainty that Buñuel has succeeded as his film gives viewers plenty of opportunities to learn more about rich as well as poor people and their idiosyncrasies especially strange circumstances which enable them to behave in given situations.From a cinematographic point of view,this film's fantastic cast has made a lot of difference in the way its message got conveyed.Actor Georges Géret is able to do enormous justice to his role of Joseph as he has villainous looks. As she was already hailed as a 'sex symbol', actress Jeanne Moreau did not have to work too hard to portray the role of Célestine,a woman who makes good use of her sexual charm to win men around her.Actor Michel Piccoli didn't waste any chances to excel himself as the sympathetic representative of a corrupt,bourgeois society.
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10/10
No Hope, No Future in This Swampy World
ilpohirvonen1 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Diary of a Chambermaid opened the later French period of Luis Bunuel (1964-1977) during which he made his most well known films such as Belle de Jour, That Obscure Object of Desire and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Diary of a Chambermaid is another of his attacks on the bourgeoisie but what differs it from the rest is its genuine darkness and pessimism. It's a film about fight of the classes, fascism and a satire of the decay of the French society.

Set in early 1930's; a new chambermaid, Céléstine (Jeanne Moreau) arrives to the Monteil mansion. Soon she gets to know the bizarre family full of odd characters; Madame Monteil who seems to be more interested in taking care of their family's furniture than her husband, Monsier Monteil who isn't interested in anything but hunting and Madame's father who is a shoe-fetishist.

Céléstine is in between of two worlds; the city and the country, the working class and the bourgeoisie. She's not settled in; so she's not part of the country nor the city as she isn't part of the bourgeoisie or the working class. She doesn't really know where she is, she's a very elusive figure; so she is in the move all the time. Each time the camera let's us observe her, she's in the move. But when Céléstine climbs up the ladder of the social hierarchy she stops. She lies in her bed and commands people around her; the snow outside indicates this age of stagnation she has now entered.

Diary of a Chambermaid is based on the novel by Octave Mirbeau which was first adapted on screen by Jean Renoir in 1946. The first word of the title 'diary' refers to the protagonist of the story and in the novel everything is seen from Céléstine's perspective - and no thoughts of her can escape from us. But Luis Bunuel didn't want to focus on one perspective, he wanted to show the perspective of Céléstine but also of the strange people living in the mansion.

Bunuel's film portrays life in a swamp. He has transformed the bourgeoisie settings, he grew up in Spain, to France brilliantly. Swamp, of course, indicates a state of life; when you're in a swamp there is no way out. You are stuck and cannot move. This refers to the pessimism of Diary of a Chambermaid; there is no hope and the end shows that Luis Bunuel portrays a humankind with no future; the similar storm and clouds in the end, as in the beginning. All the horrors will happen again and again.

Diary of a Chambermaid is a film of antitheses. The city and the country, the bourgeoisie and the lower class - as mentioned, woods and the mansion, house animals and the wild animals. The two latter couples refer to the dichotomy of the film. The house symbolizes civilization where people are frigid and mellow, even the animals are under control. On the contrary, the woods symbolize the wild side of man where one's desires and passions run wild, where rules and standards are cut off and, where the rabbits, wild boars and snails are out of control.

It's a very clever film - attack on the bourgeoisie, a common subject for Bunuel but he was never as cruel, ruthless and pessimist about it as in Diary of a Chambermaid. Rapes, hypocrisy and disregard are the main elements which characterize the atmosphere of this film portraying a swampy world.
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8/10
"I guess, people don't have much fun here."
elvircorhodzic26 August 2017
DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID is a crime comedy, which on a surreal way connects a radical politics, corruption, violence, and sexual perversions. Mr. Buñuel is not making fun of some kind of tradition, he just points to the shocking background of a provincial town.

Célestine is an ambitious and attractive maid, from Paris, who comes to work for a Normandy estate. Her hosts are crazed, violent and perverse. The elderly father is a harmless old fetishist, his daughter is a frigid and meticulous woman, while her husband can't keep his hands off the servants. Here are their servants and a neighbor, retired Army officer, who shares his bed with a chubby maid. Célestine must wisely choose men who surround her...

The story is placed in the middle of the 1930s. A woman has completely disrupted relations and instincts between other protagonists in this film. It's kind of a surreal view on a provincial environment and the relation between a nationalism, petty bourgeois and religion.

Mr. Buñuel has put a strange household in the correlation with the French social structure. Characterization is very good. Completely different characters fight, in a surreal atmosphere, to achieve their ambitions. However, the epilogue is more than realistic.

Jeanne Moreau as Célestine is a smart and very capable woman. She pushes her temperament in the right direction. She has become an essential part in the lives of people and hostile environment that surrounds her. She waited patiently for the right opportunity to remove a "rotten tissue" and realize her ambition. Ms. Moreau offered very good performance.

This is, perhaps a little unclear story, but it is an effective and fun experience.
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8/10
The darker side of "The Rules of the Game"
ElMaruecan8211 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
God, what a downer! There's not a single character in Luis Bunuel' "Diary of a Chambermaid" that exudes sympathy. Except for the titular chambermaid herself, Célestine, played by Jeanne Moreau but she's sympathetic by default as the anchor on which revolves most of the other characters' depraved and decadent behavior. She's the newly hired chambermaid from Paris and working for a rich aristocratic family, the Monteils, she's the unlikely revealer of the mentalities that poisoned France in the mid-30's and that only waited for a catalysis to burst out, the worst way, foreshadowing the worst that was still to happen in the next decade.

The gallery of characters who occupy the film is depressing indeed, the wife, Madame Monteil, is a dry, childless and frigid woman who's not keen on sex because of pelvic pain, her husband played by Michel Piccoli is a frustrated man who can only satisfy his sexual urges on any woman that comes at range. Rumor has it that he impregnated the previous maid and he seems eager to replicate the experience with Célestine, maybe not with the same consequence. The rest of the staff includes the groom Joseph (powerful performance from Georges Géret) a brute that keeps on blabbering about foreigners and goes on anti-Semitic rants reflecting the mentalities of the time.

There's also a neighbor who's a veteran from the Great War and keeps childishly throwing stones on their fences, his plump wife and to complete the obscene portrait, Monsieur's Monteil's elderly father (Jacques Ozenne) who grows a strange fetishist attraction toward Célestine, asking her to read racy novels every night, occasionally try some shoes from his collection and let him caress her ankle. I said Célestine wasn't sympathetic, but only in the sense that she reacts to all the sexual oppression and exploits in order to survive in what seems to be a rotten society. After all, even the good persons can't all be innocent.

Celestine is the straight woman, not of a tragicomedy, but of a disillusioned and bitter depiction of the bourgeois upper class at the dawn of World War II, when fascism was raising its ugly head all over Europe. Bunuel faced fascism when censorship prevented his second movie "L'Age d'Or" to be shown in theaters, so you can tell there's a record to settle in his "Diary", the tone is far from his usual surrealistic tropes, and there's not even a moment left for comic relief or far-fetched twists. Bad things happen and it's up to Celestine to turn them to her advantage, to make her weakness an asset, in a way, she reminds me of that great quote from Dolores Clairbone: "Sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman's got to hold in to".

But what if you're not a woman? The tone gets even darker when the one innocent character, a little girl to which Celestine grew a rapid fondness, is brutally raped and murdered by Joseph. The scene starts as a representation of "little red riding hood" and when Joseph warns her about the wolf, he snaps and he realizes that he'd make a good predator after all. The murder of the girl derails Celestine's plans, she was just about to live the mansion but decides to stay to confront the rapist she clearly identified. Yet the film is less about heroism but about a really ugly time. It might also feel like the downfall of the bourgeois society but the most ruthless and despicable man is a working man. There was something rotten to the core and that's how the whole experience feels, shocking and displeasing. Bunuel beautifully conveyed that feeling.

"Diary of a Chambermaid" is perhaps a less colorful version of the same world Renoir showed in "The Rules of the Game", as there's no game in the film, unless you mean the game of hypocrisy, frivolity disguised under respectability and unhappiness, the only person who might end up happy after all is the veteran who married Célestine, he was old, she was young and plain, together they deserve each other. The ending is anti-romantic but shows that there was a zone of turbulence history had to get through and that culminated at a time where people started to practice, the end doesn't even feature Célestine but a march of fascists lead by Joseph and shouting "Vive Chiappe" (the man who censored "L'Age d'Or"). It's very telling when the only guy who "walks the walk" in the film is the most despicable.

Maybe Renoir's tone was more playful because, unlike Bunuel, he made the film before the War. Bunuel knew where this was leading to and maybe the little girl was an allegory of little Marianne, as a France, still young, and ready to be murdered. The film, written by Jean-Claude Carrère, marks an interesting reminder of the darkest hours of France. Jeanne Moreau just died and I saw the film a second time on a special TV tribute, the film made me realize how fresh and lively she looks, despite being 36 at the time of the film, she exudes a mix of pseudo innocence and a blasé attitude that is genuinely irresistible, she's not glamorous but she raises her appeal beyond the usual archetypes, and it works in the film.

Still, it's a rather displeasing story whose title doesn't prepare you for how actually dark it is.
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8/10
A double-bill of LE JOURNAL D'UNE FEMME DE CHAMBRE
lasttimeisaw3 August 2017
A double-bill of two films transmuting Octave Mirbeau's source novel LE JOURNAL D'UNE FEMME DE CHAMBRE onto the celluloid, made by two cinematic titans: Jean Renoir and Luis Buñuel, 18 years apart.

Renoir's version is made in 1946 during his Hollywood spell, starring Paulette Goddard as our heroine Celestine, a Parisian girl arrives in the rural Lanlaire mansion to work as the chambermaid in 1885, barely alighting from the train, Celestine has already been rebuffed by the haughty valet Joseph (an excellently surly Lederer), and confides to the also newly arrived scullery maid Louise (a mousy and dowdy Irene Ryan) that she will do whatever in her power to advancing her social position and firmly proclaims that love is absolutely off limits, and the film uses the literal diary- writing sequences as a recurrent motif to trace Celestine's inner thoughts.

The objects of her tease are Captain Lanlaire (Owen), the patriarch who has relinquished his monetary sovereignty to his wife (Judith Anderson, emanating a tangy air of gentility and callousness); and Captain Mauger (a comical Burgess Meredith, who also pens the screenplay off his own bat), the Lanlaire's goofy neighbor who has a florae-wolfing proclivity and is perennially at loggerheads with the former on grounds of the discrepancy in their political slants, both are caricatured as lecherous old geezers with the death of a pet squirrel prefiguring the less jaunty denouement.

In Renoir's book, the story has a central belle-époque sickly romantic sophistication to sabotage Celestine's materialistic pursuit, here her love interest is George (Hurd Hatfield), the infirm son of the Lanlaire family, a defeatist borne out of upper-crust comfort and has no self-assurance to hazard a courtship to the one he hankers after. Only when Joseph, a proletariat like Celestine, turns murderous and betrays his rapacious nature, and foists a hapless Celestine into going away with him, is George spurred into action, but he is physically no match of Joseph, only with the succor from the plebeian mob on the Bastille Day, Celestine is whisked out of harm's way, the entire process is shrouded by a jocose and melodramatic state of exigency and Renoir makes ascertain that its impact is wholesome and wonderfully eye-pleasing.

In paralleled with Buñuel's interpretation of the story, Renoir has his innate affinity towards the aristocracy (however ludicrous and enfeebled are those peopled) and its paraphernalia, the story is less lurid and occasionally gets off on a comedic bent through Goddard's vibrant performance juggling between a social-climber and a damsel-in-distress.

The same adjective "comedic", "vibrant" certainly doesn't pertain to Buñuel's version, here the time-line has been relocated to the mid-1930s, Celestine (played by Jeanne Moreau with toothsome reticence and ambivalence) more often than not, keeps her own counsel, we don't even once see her writing on the titular diary, she works for Mr. and Mrs Monteil (Piccoli and Lugagne), who are childless but live with Madame's father Mr. Rabour (Ozenne, decorous in his condescending aloofness), an aristo secretly revels in boots fetish in spite of his dotage. Here the bourgeois combo is composed of a frigid and niggardly wife, a sexed-up and henpecked husband (Mr. Piccoli makes for a particularly farcical womanizer, armed with the same pick-up line), a seemingly genteel but kinky father, and Captain Mauger (Ivernel), here is less cartoonish but no less uppity, objectionable and erratic; whereas Joseph (Géret), is a rightist, anti-Semitic groom whose perversion is to a great extent much more obscene (rape, mutilation and pedophilia are not for those fainted hearts).

Amongst those anathemas, Celestine must put on her poker face, or sometimes even a bored face to be pliant (she even acquiesces to be called as Marie which Goddard thinks better of in Renoir's movie), she is apparently stand-offish but covertly rebellious, and when a heinous crime occurs (a Red Riding Hood tale garnished with snails), she instinctively decides to seek justice and tries insinuating her way into a confession from the suspect through her corporeal submission, only the perpetrator is not a dolt either, unlike Renoir's Joseph, he knows what is at stakes and knows when to jettison his prey and start anew, that is a quite disturbing finale if one is not familiar with an ending where a murderer gets away with his grisly crime. But Buñuel cunningly precedes the ending with a close-up of a contemplating Celestine, after she finally earns her breakfast-in-bed privilege, it could suggest that what followed is derived from her fantasy, which can dodge the bullet if there must be.

Brandishing his implacable anti-bourgeoisie flag, Buñuel thoughtfully blunts his surrealistic abandon to give more room for dramaturgy and logical equilibrium, which commendably conjures up an astringent satire laying into the depravity and inhumanity of the privileged but also doesn't mince words in asserting that it doesn't live and die with them, original sin is immanent, one just cannot be too watchful.

Last but definitely not the least, R.I.P. the one and only Ms. Moreau, who just passed away at the age of 89, and in this film she is a formidable heroine, brave, sultry and immune to all the mushy sentiments, whose fierce, inscrutable look is more than a reflection of her temperaments, but a riveting affidavit of a bygone era's defining feature.
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1/10
A waste of time
ScenicRoute19 April 2010
This movie is presented as "pitiless, devastating" etc, but really it is just an exercise in artistic snobbery - the characters are either two-dimensional - the gentry, who are simply symbols of lust, jealousy, or avariciousness, or one-dimensional - the servants, who are either victims or heartless. This movie is like an Ivy Compton-Burnett novel: Everyone is a caricature, who gets what she/he deserves, but what's the point? If you like stick-figures who are arrogantly set up to be knocked down, then this is the movie for you. If you like to explore humanity in all its complexity, then skip this shoddy theater piece. The only good thing is the French is clear and easy to follow, so helpful to those studying the language.
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4/10
boring an cliché ridden
maerte22 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Male aristocrats like the Monteils are perverts and their daughters are frigid. Parvenus prefer to get laid with house-maids which have to paid off later. French society outside Paris is characterised by bizarre personalities and religious hypocrisy. Former soldiers are Jew-baiting fascists who rape and murder nine-year old girls in the forest. Didn't we all know that before? Worse: important events are reflected in nature: whenever something important happens, thunder strikes. This movie is French cinema at its worst. Due to the fame of Bunuel as a former avantguardist it has gained the status of a classic. But it does not contain one element of surprise. Even the acting is far from brilliant (which saves many other French movies). But this is not the actors' fault. Getting life into such a boring plot and flat characters is most likely impossible.
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