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Diary of a Chambermaid (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 95 minutes

Not for children

Octave Mirbeau’s 1900 novel has already been made into two classic films, one by Jean Renoir in 1946 starring Paulette Goddard as Céléstine, and another by Luis Buñuel in 1964 starring Jeanne Moreau playing the same character. All are different, but this one, starring Léa Seydoux in the titular role, is probably the best. Directed by Benoit Jacquot from a script by Hélène Zimmer (with another credit going to Jacquot), this captures the difficult world and cast of distasteful characters in which the lovely Céléstine finds herself captured.

Her employer, Mrs. Lanlaire (Clotilde Mollet) is totally unsympathetic, as are just about all the other characters with whom she is thrown. But one, Georges (Vincent Lacoste) is an extremely complex man. Is he a monster or is he not?

Jacquot expertly combines the mores of the 1900 novel and the mid-20th Century films with today’s world and the result is a thought-provoking film that leaves the viewer contemplating what they have just seen.

Poor Céléstine finds herself alone in a cruel, selfish world and she has to fend for herself without surrendering her dignity as a woman. Seydoux gives an outstanding, sympathetic performance. This is a brilliant film, one that held my interest throughout. In French.