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Diary of a Chambermaid (The Criterion Collection)

4.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This wicked adaptation of the Octave Mirbeau novel is classic Luis Buñuel. Jeanne Moreau is Celestine, a beautiful Parisian domestic who, upon arrival at her new job at an estate in provincial 1930s France, entrenches herself in sexual hypocrisy and scandal with her philandering employer (Buñuel regular Michel Piccoli). Filmed in luxurious black-and-white Franscope, Diary of a Chambermaid is a raw-edged tangle of fetishism and murder-and a scathing look at the burgeoning French fascism of the era.


Considered surrealist Luis Buñuel most linear film, Diary of a Chambermaid is an excellent introduction to this director's dark satirical world of social criticism. Loosely based on Mirbeau's Journal D'Une Femme de Chambre, Buñuel uses the beautiful French countryside as a backdrop to ruthlessly display his favorite subjects: Catholicism, the bourgeoisie, nationalism, and moral decay. Jeanne Moreau is Celestine, a chambermaid from Paris who takes a job at a picturesque country estate. When the body of the staff's daughter is discovered raped and murdered, Celesine does whatever is necessary to uncover the girl's killer. She quickly learns that her new employees, though apparent pillars of nouveau aristocracy, are as morally corrupt as the girl’s murderer. Though extremely linear for Buñuel, Diary of a Chambermaid does not lack for profound, symbolic imagery and cryptic revelations. --Rob Bracco

Special Features

  • Video interviews with screenwriter and longtime collaborator Jean-Claude Carriere
  • Reprint of interview with Luis Bunuel about Diary of a Chambermaid

Product Details

  • Actors: Jeanne Moreau, Michel Piccoli, Georges Géret, Françoise Lugagne, Jean Ozenne
  • Directors: Luis Buñuel
  • Writers: Jean-Claude Carrière, Luis Buñuel, Octave Mirbeau
  • Producers: Michel Safra, Serge Silberman
  • Format: Anamorphic, Black & White, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: June 5, 2001
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005B1ZK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,359 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Diary of a Chambermaid (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 15, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
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.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Second movie of spanish director Luis Bunuel to have the honour to enter the most praised Criterion DVD collection after THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE a few weeks ago, DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID is presented in a perfect widescreen black and white copy with a well-balanced sound. As bonus features, you will enjoy a theatrical trailer, a printed interview of Luis Bunuel and a 25 minutes interview of screenplay writer Jean-Claude Carrière who wrote or co-wrote some of the most important movies of the last thirty years.
Adapted from a novel of Octave Mirbeau, DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID was directed in 1964 by a Luis Bunuel already sanctified by two generations of movie lovers. French actor Michel Piccoli replaces the bunuelian Fernando Rey in the role of a member of the bourgeoisie slightly decadent and ridiculous. Jeanne Moreau (Jules and Jim), as the chambermaid, is a young woman coming from Paris and discovering what is like to live in the "deep" France of the early thirties.
DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID can not be classified in any specific genre. It's a comedy yes, but with a very serious murder in the middle of the story. It's a detective story yes, but with harsch political critiques. In fact, it's simply a Luis Bunuel movie with his unique personal world impregnating a novel he admired from his childhood on. Highly recommended.
A DVD zone your library.
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Format: DVD
Bunuel was a restless director and this, the second adaptation of Octave Mirbeau's classic novel, is yet another example of his mastery over his chosen medium. Bunuel takes liberties with the novel, adapting it to suit his interests: he changes the setting to France of the 1930s, allowing for the opportunity to tie the rise of nationalism and anti-semitism to the decadence of the bourgeoisie, which he tackles with obvious relish.
The film is funny and scathing at the same time, relentlessly pursuing its own agenda to the delight and probable perplexion of the viewer. This is one of the most accessible of Bunuel's late films, which isn't to say it's better or worse than the rest - it's just a bit different in its use of more traditional modes of storytelling. He asks the viewer questions and when you think he's giving the answer you'll find the rug swiftly pulled from under your feet with the delight of a born prankster. He is, of course, much more than that but one of the many pleasures his work offers is the entertaining (and complete) control he has over the content, the unseen hand you feel expertly guiding the film to its effective conclusion.
Entertaining, thoughtful and with another wonderful performance by Jeanne Moreau, this is an easy introduction to Bunuel's oeuvre. "Mystery is the essential element in every work of art." -Luis Bunuel
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Format: DVD
What hypocrites people are, Bunuel seems to be saying in this amusing but rather sour look at French petit bourgeoise during the 1930s. Celestine (Jeanne Moreau) has come to work at the country estate of the Monteils. She's from Paris, shrewd and attractive, and a magnet for every man she meets. And what a collection there is. The woman of the house is frigid and finds more comfort in possessions and neatness than in her husband. Her husband, denied the pleasures of the bed, is constantly seeking relief from almost every female servant he can force himself on. His father in law, who lives with them, is an aging fetishist. Joseph, the gamekeeper, is a fascist. Their neighbor, Captain Mauger, is in a continuing state of frustrated rage against the Monteils. Celestine is cool and somewhat amused by it all, but ultimately decides to return to Paris. Then a young girl she met is raped and murdered in the woods. Celestine is sure she knows who the killer is and decides to stay. If the police can't find the evidence to capture him, she'll provide it one way or another.

Bunuel puts a jaundiced eye on everyone. The captain may may be convinced of the honor of the army, but he lies about his neighbor. The priest and confessor of the lady of the manor is called upon to give her marital advice, which he does by saying that twice a week is too much and she mustn't enjoy it. The father-in-law is over-civilized but with a penchant for soiled ladies' boots. Joseph raves on about order, faith and country, but believes a goose tastes better if it has been tortured before being killed.

And there is Celestine herself. She knows her power over these men but plays with them in a rather abstracted manner.
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