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This film tells the tawdry story of the notorious Papin sisters, and it is quite a story. In early 1933, a crime of dreadful and shocking brutality stunned the nation of France, and its citizens watched in horror as the facts unfolded. The Papin sisters, Christine and Lea, stood accused of savagely murdering their employer, Madame Lancelin, and her daughter, Genevieve, in the household where they worked as maids.

In late 1933, the trial resulted in the elder sister, Christine, being convicted of both murders and sentenced to death, a sentence later commuted to that of life in prison. She would die four years later in an asylum for the criminally insane. Her younger sister, Lea, was also convicted, but only of the murder of Madame Lancelin, and was sentenced to serve ten years of hard labor. She served eight years of her ten year sentence and was then released, living to a ripe old age.

In the film, the viewer sees that the sisters came from a totally dysfunctional household. Their mother, the selfish and unloving Clemence (Isabel Renauld), kicked her alcoholic husband out the household, when she discovered that he had been molesting their oldest daughter, Emilie. She then placed their three daughters in a Catholic orphanage run by nuns. Clemence, relieved of the day-to-day responsibility of her daughters, would see them on occasion.

Emilie eventually decided to become a nun. When Christine later expressed an interest in following in Emilie's footsteps, her mother quashed that notion. Instead, as Christine (Sylvie Testud) grew older, Clemence looked to her as a source of income, hiring her out to work as a maid. The viewer sees the deadening effect of her servitude, as her employers treat Christine as a virtual nonentity. Initially, Christine tested the patience of some of her earlier employers to whom she was, at times, slyly insolent. Later, she resorted to passive-aggressive behavior.

As time passes, however, Christine becomes more superficially accepting of her lot in life. Yet, the viewer can see an embittered Christine internalize her resentment, frustration, and dissatisfaction with her situation. Eventually, Christine's relationship with her mother totally deteriorates, and it is clear that there is little love lost between the two. Consequently, Christine grows up to be a tightly wound young woman, polite, reticent, and quiet, but seething with a strong current of emotion beneath the surface.

After a number of jobs as a maid, Christine finally finds a post with the well-to-do Lincelan family in the town of Le Mans. When Lea (Julie-Marie Parmentier) grows older, Clemence seeks to place her as a maid, as well. Having vowed that she would always look after her younger sister, Lea, Christine hatches a scheme. Not wanting to be separated from her sister, Christine manipulates her employer and ensures that Lea is placed with her in the Lincelan home.

At first, all seems well, although they find themselves looking for ways of circumventing the pettiness of their employer's frugality towards them. Then, Christine and Lea's relationship begins to change. Eventually, the somewhat dim Lea would come under the total domination of her sister. They would spend all their time together, and their close, sisterly relationship would develop a sexual component, leading to a shocking, incestuous relationship, with Lea always following Christine's lead.

One day, Madame Lincelan and her daughter return home unexpectedly, while Christine and Lea are engaged in activities other than their chores. When Christine goes to head them off at the pass, all hell breaks loose, as she takes some pretty extreme action towards them. Lea joins her in forever silencing the petty despots who had ruled their lives with an iron fist. These whirling dervishes of destruction would show no mercy.

This is a very well acted film. Sylvie Testud turns in a bravura performance as the edgy, emotionally repressed, and mentally unbalanced Christine. Julie-Marie Parmentier lends a dewy innocence to the role of Lea. The rest of the cast likewise gives excellent performances. The cinematography is suitably neutral in tone, lending a stark, austere quality to the film. This is a film that will keep the viewer riveted, but in the end it can hardly be said to be enjoyable in the accepted sense, as the emotions that it conjures are so disquieting. Still, this is a deftly directed, well acted film that is certainly worth seeing, especially if one is a true crime aficionado.
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on June 17, 2009
Les Blessuers Assassines

Two sisters with an abusive mother are forced into servitude as maids. The eldest sister forms a protective bond over her younger sister to shelter her from their mother. Eventually the bond turns incestuous. When the madam of their household discovers their relationship and threatens to expose them, the sisters turn to murder to protect their secret.

Based on the true story of the Papin sisters, Murderous Maids is interesting and well acted. The movie forgoes delving into the psychological motivations of these two women. Best I can guess from the content of the film is that they felt like it was them against the world. Poor, uneducated, unwanted, picked on by their employer and their mother, it seems they only had each other and would do anything to protect their relationship.

I've seen enough French films to feel indifferent to the theme of this movie but be warned that many other reviewers found it dark and disturbing. I've written this before-the French are so...inventive when it comes to relationships and when passion takes hold, they let it flow over all reason.

If you like this movie, I'd high suggest watching One to Another and Savage Grace which are also based on a true crimes involving incest and murder.
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on June 24, 2007
"Murderous Maids" is the second film I've seen about France's Papin sisters, two domestics who, in the early 1930's, savagely murdered their employer and her daughter. Slightly superior to "Sister, My Sister", Britain's Papin film, "Murderous Maids", based on the book "L'affaire Papin", not only possesses a greater degree of psychological sophistication, but is more historically accurate. That being said, "Murderous Maids" (or, more correctly, "Les Blessures Assassines") more or less winds up being a showcase for the sublime performance given by Sylvie Testud, who, despite no physical resemblance, brings us as close as I believe is humanly possible to touching the strange entity that was Christine Papin--and it's about as close as most people would want to get. Julie-Marie Parmentier as co-star is dutifully overshadowed, much as her character Lea lived in the shadow of her older sister Christine in actual life. Their love scenes are both sweet and sexy, which makes for an intriguing juxtaposition to the off-putting gruesomeness of the murders. While these women (particularly Christine) felt victimized by their lowly social status, their chaotic family romance (manipulative, self-absorbed mother; absent father) played a parallel role in determining their (and their employer's) unfortunate fate.
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VINE VOICEon April 26, 2009
This is the true story of the Papin sisters, Christine and Lea, who were convicted in the 1930's of one of France's most notorious crimes. "Murderous Maids" chronicles their lives and the commitment of that crime: the brutal slaying of their employer and her daughter.

Both girls are raised by nuns and on finishing school, their mother sells them into servitude. Christine, the elder sister, is fiercely protective of Lea, becoming more of a mother to Lea than their actual mother. In time, Christine arranges for Lea's employment in the same household and eventually they develop an obsessive, incestuous Lesbian relationship.

Christine's world is rocked in childhood: she is shattered by the realization that her beloved alcoholic father raped her elder sister--a sister who resolved her own demons by becoming a nun. As Christine matures, she becomes brittle, tightly wound and mentally unstable: her whole life totally focused on her sister. Lea, a much weaker character, willingly clings to Christine, almost as if Christine is the leader of their private cult. It is a deeply disturbing portrayal and very well acted.
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on May 6, 2002
If you are depressed, just lost your significant other, lost out on that promotion, just had your car reposessed...do not go see Jean-Pierre Denis' "Murderous Maids." It's a real downer. But a downer with just the right amount of the absurd and the ridiculous to make it viable as entertainment.
"Murderous Minds" tells the story of Lea and Christine, two sisters who are sold into servitude by their mother; into the house of a French Bourgeoisie housewife who literally checks the dusting with a white glove. Madam is very persnickity about the household cleaning and the food bills and for a time forms a bond with the eldest sister, Christine who shares Madam's adherence to the highest standards. That is until Madam finds Lea and Christine "en flagrante delicto." Then the title of this little film comes into play and the tone changes from "A Room with a View" to le grand guignol.
Christine is the lynchpin of this film and she is a great character fulminating with rage and passion that inevitably leads her down the path towards mental illness...or is she merely having a very bad week? Lea the younger sister is a giggly mass of jello more than happy to be molded into a lover by Christine. Both actresses play their roles to the hilt and beyond culminating in the prison scenes in which both come very close to literally chewing the scenery. But it is all such a hoot that we care little and gladly suspend our disbelief; even though we do it with our mouths agape. Anyone remember Ken Russell's "The Devils?"
I suppose one could nit pick the weak psychological and social motivations of the characters and the film: why exactly is Christine so upset? Why does the mother find it necessary to take her younger daughter's wages when she herself is employed?
One of the major set pieces of "Murderous Maids" is Christine in the Mayor's office hysterically demanding that Lea be emancipated from their mother that ends in Christine being thrown out for causing a scene. It is so filled with over-ripe passion and hate it singes your ears and makes your stomach ache. Now that is moviemaking!
"Murderous Maids" is the kind of movie that dares you to laugh it off or ignore it...but it is so fabulously over-the-top in a Douglas Sirk/Roman Polanski way that you won't be able to.
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on October 6, 2004
This case of murder has inspired many interesting adaptations over the years. The best being Jean Genet's fabulous one act play called the 'Maids'.

Whereas Genet's play focuses on the social role-playing that leads to the crime (in the play the murder is never actually shown) - this film adaptation gives us detailed background information about the sisters and focuses more on the possible sexual relationship between them (and their strong inseperability). It also gives a quite graphic picture of the actual murder. I found this film to be quite engaging on many levels - I am still more intellectually drawn to Genet's play, however, it leaves out more - but is effective in doing so.
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on February 9, 2004
the movie tells the story of two sisters, working as maids, who through a sad combination of servitude, ignorance, psychological ailments, incest & lack of privacy, brutally murder two of their employers.
the film captured me from the first scene, and i was riveted throughout- i gave it 4 instead of 5 stars, because i wanted more on their early childhood- but as the director comments in the included interview- 'what you leave out is as important as what you leave in'.
highly recommended!!!
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VINE VOICEon May 30, 2010
Based on a true story about two sisters (Papin sisters) who have an incestuous relationship and participate in a brutal murder of their employers. The 2002 French film begins with the girls of young age in a convent. Within the first 30/40 minutes, while the girls are young, it is confusing to know who is who, and what is going on. So, pay attention closely.

Fast forward to young adulthood, and the picture becomes more clear the older girl, Christine and a younger one called Lea.

Up front, we learn of family issues, particularly with the mother. Jump to mother who has a new husband who makes a pass to the younger Lea. Another issue is that Mother has a new husband, and it seems the usual creepy stuff has gone on. There isn't a lot of information on the past as it moves quickly.

These supporting characters play minor roles, as the focus moves on to the young sisters and their jobs as maids as they eventually end up working in the same household, where they have an incestuous relationship and participate in a gruesome murder of two people in the home.

I was not exactly mesmerized by the film, more confused at the beginning. Not sure what was missing, but I give it an ok.

The role of Christine is played by Sylvie Testud, and her appearance fits the character, her acting is great as her face often reveals the that look on her face, always mysterious, twisted, haunted, and downright evil when the time comes. The setting with the 30s period furniture is remarkable, impressive to that era in France. The movie demonstrates the social class differences. ..... Rizzo
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on February 13, 2008
As I said WOW. It`s been a long time since I truely enjoyed a truely good movie. Murderous Maids more than lives up to it`s billing. This movie is worth more than the stated price of download. This is a keeper.
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VINE VOICEon October 24, 2003
Based on Janet Flanner's 1933 Vanity Fair article, MURDEROUS MAIDS (Home Vision Entertainment) vividly creates a sympathetic but unapologetic account of the notorious Papin sisters life when they are sold into servitude by their self-centered mother. Incest, murder and the haves vs the have-nots are at he heart of the most famous French crime of the 20th century. Memorable, insightful, artistic and chilling.
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