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Film / Diary of a Chambermaid (1964)

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Diary of a Chambermaid (in French Le Journal d'une femme de chambre, in Italian Il diario di una cameriera) is a 1964 French-Italian film directed by Luis Buñuel and starring Jeanne Moreau and Michel Piccoli. It is based on the 1900 novel of the same name by Octave Mirbeau, previously adapted to the screen by Jean Renoir in 1946.

In the 1930s, Célestine (Moreau) is hired as a chambermaid by a rich family. She arrives in their chateau in the country, where she meets Monsieur Rabour (Jean Ozenne), the elderly master of the house who is also a shoe fetishist; his frigid daughter, Madame Monteil (Françoise Lugagne), and her husband, Monsieur Monteil (Piccoli); and the rest of the household servants, including the nationalist and violent groom Joseph (Georges Géret).

Diary of a Chambermaid provides examples of:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted. Célestine seems to be attracted to Joseph when she understands that he killed Claire. Actually, she charms him to make him confess his crime. Since it does not work, she fabricates the evidence that Joseph was on the place where Claire was murdered. Whether her attraction was totally faked is nevertheless unclear.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Monsieur Rabour is a shoe fetishist. Monsieur Monteil is a frustrated husband who tries to have sex with Célestine (and, since it does not work, he rapes Marianne). Joseph rapes a girl and kills her. Captain Mauger has sex with her servant and proposes Célestine to sleep with him too. The priest is very interested in the details of Monsieur and Madame Monteil's sexual life.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Monsieur and Madame Monteil. The wife is frigid. The husband is a Henpecked Husband.
  • Chick Magnet: GenderInverted. All the male characters are attracted to Célestine: Monsieur Rabour, Monsieur Monteil, Joseph, and Captain Mauger.
  • Cranky Neighbor: Captain Mauger throws stones and waste in the Monteils' garden.
  • Dirty Old Man: Monsieur Rabour, who is a shoe fetishist.
  • The Ditz: Marianne does not understand anything. In particular, she does not realize that Joseph is a racist nationalist.
  • Femme Fatale: Célestine, who uses her attractiveness to manipulate people (to be thought highly by Monsieur Rabour, to frame Joseph for Claire's murder, to get a comfortable life thanks to her marriage with Captain Mauger...). It is downplayed, however, in that she is still the most sympathetic major character of the film.
  • Fetish: Monsieur Rabour is a shoe fetishist.
  • The Film of the Book: The film is based on a 1900 book by Octave Mirbeau.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Célestine fabricates the evidence that Joseph was on the place where Claire was murdered, because she knows that he is the murderer.
  • French Maid: Célestine is a chambermaid and a Femme Fatale.
  • Gold Digger: Célestine chooses to marry Captain Mauger because so she will have a higher social status.
  • The Great Depression: The film is set in the 1930's and the rise of fascist and racist political movements is depicted.
  • Henpecked Husband: Monsieur Monteil. For example, his wife gives him pocket money as if he was a teenager.
  • Heroic Seductress: Célestine charms and sleeps with Joseph to get his confession of Claire's murder.
  • Karma Houdini: Joseph is not punished for Claire's murder. He is released, he marries with another woman and he buys a bar in Cherbourg.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Joseph, the murderer, tells Célestine that her mind is just like his.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Claire, the girl who Joseph murders.
  • Setting Update: The film is set in the 1930's, whereas the book was set (and written) in The Gay '90s.
  • Shoutout: Monsieur Rabour asks Célestine to read a text from a book by Joris-Karl Huysmans.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Subverted. Monsieur Rabour is aroused by Célestine, but he does not want to sleep with her: he just wants her to wear some shoes. Monsieur Monteil tries to sleep with Célestine, but she rejects his proposals.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Joseph tells the Monteils that Célestine often chats with the neighbours.
  • World of Jerkass: Apart from the girl who is killed, is there a really sympathetic character? The protagonist, even if she has some positive traits, is a Gold Digger who takes advantage of her charm to manipulate people.