Diary of a Chambermaid (1964)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Political Satire, Satire  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - France , Italy   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Tom Wiener

Starting with Viridiana, Luis Bunuel embarked on an amazing run of great films. Somehow, this gem seems to get overlooked amid the praise for The Exterminating Angel, Belle de Jour, The Discreet Charm of the Bouregoisie, and other masterworks. Octave Mirbeau's 1900 novel got a significant update by Bunuel and co-writer Jean-Claude Carriere (who plays the village curé in one scene), as they made the growing tide of fascism in '30s France a strong undercurrent in the proceedings. Celestine, the sharp-witted servant, soon understands that the person in her new house she has the most to fear is not any of her employers; it is Joseph, the gamekeeper who is always railing about the Jews and rules his fellow servants through intimidation. Just as Celestine is about to abandon her post, a crime provides her with a mission. She alone understands Joseph's dark heart and his complicity in the deed, and she sets out a dangerous course. The film is full of Bunuel's usual droll observations about the bourgeois. "Servants don't count," declares one of the story's many lecherous men, but in the end, Celestine gets her way with that character, though her victory is bittersweet. The story's ironic epilogue is typical of Bunuel's jaded view of the world, in which evil will always find a way to flourish.