In the early 1900s, in the French provinces. Célestine a beautiful and libertarian young woman, who has been hired as a chambermaid by the Lanlaires, arrives from Paris at the train station. Joseph, her masters' gruff gardener takes her to the house where she is to work. She is "welcomed" by Mr. Lanlaire who immediately starts fondling her. She then meets Mrs. Lanlaire, a very unpleasant woman with a class superiority. All this bodes ill for the future...Written by
The film is based on the novel by Octave Mirbeau, "Le Journal d'une femme de chambre." There have been two other film versions. The first was an English-language version directed by Jean Renoir (1946), and the second was directed by Luis Bunuel (1964). See more »
"Diary of a Chambermaid" (2015 release from France; 95 min.) brings the story of Celestine (played by Léa Seydoux). As the movie opens, she is offered a chambermaid position in the country side away from Paris ("dans les provinces"). The household comprises of the Mr. (who takes an immediately like to Celestine) and the Mrs. (who treats Celestine with contempt and disdain), as well as several other helpers, including the gardener Joseph (played by Vincent Lindon). It's not long before Celstine finds herself in all kinds of awkward situations. At this point we are not yet 15 minutes into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is not the first time nor the second time that this (in)famous book has been brought to the big screen. In fact, let's just say it right now: both previous versions (1946, directed by film giant Jean Renoir, and 1964, directed by that other film giant Luis Buñuel) are MILES better than this latest adaptation, which is directed by Benoît Jacquot, not a slouch himself (best known perhaps for the excellent "Farewell, My Queen" from a few years ago, also starring Lea Seydoux). The script of this latest version seems incapable to make up its mind whether this is a sex comedy or whether it is a comedy of the classes, so it tries to be a little bit of both and ends up being neither. BEWARE: the role played by Joseph contains a strong and over the top anti-Semitism streak that I thought was shockingly blunt, and could've been handled very differently for the movie's immediate purposes without being so offensive and blatantly racist. As to the acting performances, I am a big fan of Lea Seydoux (Blue Is the Warmest Colour, and most recently in The Lobster and the latest James Bond, Spectre), but here she seems strangely absent, as if her mind is somewhere else. Vincent Lindon as the gardener tries to make the most of his material. Bottom line: when you take on a well-known novel that's been filmed before, the question of course is: what is the purpose of the remake? I really can't come up with any obvious answer to that, as the 2015 version doesn't seem to cover any new ground or provide any new insight.
"Diary of a Chambermaid" premiered at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival, yes, 18 months ago. Then, out of the blue, the movie opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati a week ago. The Thursday early evening screening where I saw this at turned out to be the last day, as the movie was gone the next day. The screening was not attended particularly well, and that didn't surprise me. I wouldn't call this latest adaptation a bad movie per se, although I was appalled at the over the top anti-Semitism in the movie. You may be interested to see this if you've seen the previous adaptations, just for comparison purposes.
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