Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Diary of a Chambermaid

Ostensibly, it seems quite easy to get a handle on ‘The Diary of a Chambermaid’. The opening scenes set it up as an upstairs-downstairs satire on class distinctions and social hypocrisy. It also comes across, structurally and in terms of narrative, as one of Buñuel’s more ‘traditional’ offerings.

It’s a different story by the end, though. Exquisitely poised satire and a rigorous examination of sexual politics are bound up with a murder mystery and the machinations of a heroine as duplicitous and on-the-make as her monied employers, and played out against a backdrop of racism, social protest and the threat of revolution.

The title suggests a heady cocktail of secrets and the boudoir, but ‘The Diary of a Chambermaid’ – for all that Buñuel throws in some comedy in the form of an old lecher with a shoe fetish – is a dark, sober, reflective work that localises its themes and concerns (a chateau and its grounds as a microcosm for France) before opening out into wider, more explicitly political mise-en-scene come the final reel.

The plot concerns Celestine (Jeanne Moreau), the chambermaid of the title, who takes up a position in at a chateau owned by Monsieur Rabour (Jean Ozenne) and ruled over with frigid discipline by his daughter Madame Monteil (Françoise Lugagne), who controls the purse strings, lacerates the staff with her sharp tongue and turns a not-quite blind eye to the (attempted) philanderings of her husband (Michel Piccoli).

Celestine tows the line to Madame Monteil, keeps Monsieur Monteil on the hop without actually letting him get his way, indulges Monsieur Rabour to a certain (non-sexual) degree, and quietly sets out to better herself. Initially clashing with anti-semitic groundsman Joseph (Georges Geret), who may or may not be responsible for the rape and murder of a young girl, Celestine even uses his attentions to further her schemes.

Full disclosure: I watched ‘The Diary of a Chambermaid’ for the first time yesterday and lacking any great understanding of the specific political references, I feel I need to go off and do some background reading, fill in the blanks, then reapproach the film. I’m probably doing neither the film or myself any favours by attempting to write about it just yet.

Most of the titles I’ve written about in this Buñuel mini-season are old favourites. A couple – ‘The Young’, ‘Tristana’ – I’ve come to cold but formed an opinion of straightaway. ‘The Diary of a Chambermaid’ is something I’ll come back to on the blog maybe a few months or a year or two down the line; something I need to engage with a little more deeply; dig away at a little more. I’m convinced that the last scene in particular is freighted with implications: I need to get under the film’s skin. It’s already started to get under mine.

1 comment:

Jake Carson said...

that “Captain Kutchie Pelaez” of “Kutcharitaville” over

in Asheville, NC sure enough is “One Wild and Crazy Guy!” All the women

are so wild about him and his Famous Cheese Burgers and Key Lime Pies,

Hellaciously Fantastic Tender and Delicious Prime Ribs and Prime Steaks.

Drop Off the Bone Bar-B-Q Ribs, Pulled Pork and Beef Brisket.

His Drop Dead Gorgeous Wife “Anita” together in they’re Historic Key

Lime Pie Factory and Grill, where the Smiles and Ovens are always Warm

and Friendly, Inviting You to Spend A Little Time Resting and Enjoying

Your Time in They’re Little “Key West Island” near the Biltmore Estate


By….Kind of Funny You Know, The World’s Greatest Key Lime Pies Aren’t

Even Baked In The Keys But At Kutcharitaville By Captain Kutchie

Pelaez and His Lovely Wife Anita In The Carolina Mountains!….Go


You’ll Soon Learn Why People Call “Captain Kutchie

Pelaez “The Most Interesting Man In The World!”…But don’t take our word

for it, follow the Long Lines to “Anita and Captain Kutchie Pelaez’s Key

West-Kutcharitaville Key Lime Pie Factory and Grill’. “The Place To Be”

since 1976!

Don’t be fooled into thinking that Jimmy Buffett

designed or had anything to do with this place. Just Ask Miss Sunshine Smith! That would be an insult.

Kutchie’s was here long before anyone ever heard of JB……Sheesh!

Donald Trump loves KUTCHARITAVILLE so much that he often has take-out

flown to him in NEW YORK CITY! WOW! He must really love those original

cheese burgers in paradise, we sure do, they have our vote for sure.

My best friend said she heard last week that Donald Trump and Stephen

Colbert together are planing on a Welcome to the USA Party for “Pope Francis”

to be held soon over in Asheville, NC at “Kutcharitaville”.

Some party that will be for sure!

Think, I’ll just get all the girls together and we can all Nude-Up and

go too “Captain Kutchie’s” and Get Drunk and Screw! Let’s Go Y’all!

Captain Kutchie’s Key Lime Pies Are World Famous For Giving Everyone

That Eats Them They’re Very First “PIEGASAM”….That’s Probably why one

must be over 18 years of age to purchase or have an adult present.

…Oh and all that Great Fall Off The Bone Bar-B-Q Slow Smoking, “Carly

Fiorino” say’s that she Can Smell They’re Butts Miles Away!….Or Maybe She

Was Just Smelling “Hillary”!…..OMG?

…The Late Great “Captain Tony Tarracino” of Key West Fame was an Old
Friend of “Captain Kutchie Pelaez”. Together the two of them Sailed Many
Adventures Not Known To Much Of The World! Cheese Burgers, Rum, Scotch,
Cigarettes, Cigars, Treasure Maps, Pizzas, Chocolate Bars and Key Lime
Pies Helped The Two Make History. If You Can Believe It Even “Mel
Fisher” Was Known To Hang With Them!….

Captain Kutchie The Key Lime Pie Whisperer!…

Thank “GOD” That Noah Had Two of Kutchie’s Key Lime Pies On The Ark!….

And Don’t Forget “Ernest Hemingway’s” (Original Thinking Post) ! There
Was Only One And “Captain Kutchie” Has It. Don’t Miss It.

Hillary Sucks!…………………….Bill Does Too!…….I Feel His Pain....

..Captain Kutchie Pelaez For President!!!!....
He Will Put A Key Lime Pie and A Gallon Of Fresh Kutcharita's in Every Refrigerator!....

..Oh, I Forgot One,....Chuck Todd Sucks Too!....That Sleazy Eyed Gutter Snipper!....Sheesh Give Me A Break!...