Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Tuesday 9th March 1965
Distributed by: 20th Century-Fox
Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 17 Rotten: 3
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: Luis Buñuel
Screenwriter: Luis Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière
Starring: Jeanne Moreau as Céléstine, Georges Géret as Joseph, Daniel Ivernel as Captain Mauger, Françoise Lugagne as Madame Monteil, Muni as Marianne, Jean Ozenne as Monsieur Rabour, Michel Piccoli as Monsieur Monteil
The themes of obsessive desire, inhibitions imposed by society and ridicule of conventional bourgeois values dominate Buñuel's work, and Diary of a Chambermaid is no exception to that. Unlike some of Buñuel's most surrealistic films (L'Age d'Or, Un Chien Andalou, Belle de Jour), Diary is fairly straightforward. No one but Luis Buñuel can combine so brilliantly sexuality, perversity, and humor against the backdrop of fascism's in France in the early 1920s.
Celestine (Jeanne Moreau), a chic, elegantly dressed Parisian, finds a position of chambermaid in a suburban manor. Her frustration with province -- "The countryside is always a little trite" -- soon proves to be a rather premature conclusion, as she discovers her boss' shoe fetishism, among his other peculiarities. Curiously, Celestine finds Monsieur Rabour's weakness harmless, if not attractive. Moreau has one of those sophisticated faces that give away so much yet reveal so little. With a wicked flicker in her eyes and a smirk playing at the corners of her mouth, Celestine learns very quickly how to wrap everyone around her finger. She is dignified and calm with frigid and stingy Madame Monteil, and playfully dismissive of her husband's sexual flirtations (Michel Piccoli is wonderful at portraying the spineless, trapped husband). Her poise, body language, and facial expressions, especially in the scenes when she discovers Monsieur Rabour's private shoe stock, are delightful to watch, and the restored B&W print makes the best of it.
When Celestine suspects Joseph, Monteil's servant and a devoted right-wing bigot, of a murder, she postpones her return to Paris and decides to investigate the murder on her own. Despite the fact that Celestine goes so far as to frame Joseph, her coming on to him is an example of a truly Buñuelian touch -- ambiguity and perversity. Is she really attracted to the sadist (she was horrified once while watching him slaughter geese) and a murderer, or is she out for the revenge, or perhaps even both? We'll never know, and that's why I adore Buñuel so much -- for him there is always so much more in people than mere characterization.
The rise of nationalism and anti-Semitism in France provides Buñuel with another chance to exhibit his radical, vitriolic, and atheistic view of the world he finds so decadent and devoid of morality. After all, Joseph gets away with the murder and Celestine, an impetuous spirit anticipating the aroma of justice, turns out to be no more than a shrewd opportunist selling herself short to become another Madame Monteil -- a bored bourgeois wife.
Aka Le journal d'une femme de chambre.