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Diary of a Chambermaid, May 5

A Tribute to Jean-Claude Carrière

Friday, May 5, 2006
7:00 p.m. Diary of a Chambermaid
Luis Buñuel (France/Italy, 1964)

(Le journal d'une femme de chambre). Buñuel and Carrière updated the Mirbeau novel about the decadent nineteenth-century French upper class to 1928, when fascism was not an unspoken undercurrent but rather a movement of growing strength in France. The rural landscape is fittingly autumnal; the film ends on a lightning bolt. Against this backdrop Buñuel unfolds the darkly humorous tale of a chambermaid, Célestine (Jeanne Moreau), who becomes the newest fetish for a family of perfectly ordinary perverts. One shoots butterflies, another stalks little girls (and Jews and foreigners). Old Père merely caresses the soles (or souls) of shoes. And then there's the priest, played by Carrière. Célestine cunningly and ambiguously plays each passion against the other—very much like the French themselves, and with similar results. The name chanted by the fascist automatons at film's end is none other than that of the prefect of police, Chiappe, who banned Buñuel's L'age d'or in 1930.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière, from the novel by Octave Mirbeau. Photographed by Roger Fellous. With Jeanne Moreau, Michel Piccoli, Georges Géret, Françoise Lugagne. (95 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Rialto Pictures)