Diary of a Chambermaid (1964) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

There was a version of this film made in 1946 by screen legend Jean Renoir. This article is about the 1964 version directed by Spain's most famous filmmaker, Luis Bu˝uel.
Look, I'll be the first to admit that I don't understand one damned thing in any Bu˝uel movies, and this is no exception. Oh, it's not outright weird like Andalusian Dog. Nobody's eyes are sliced open, and there aren't any people with a handful of ants. (Although there is a dead girl with snails crawling up her leg)


But it is still odd, even if it is chronological, even if it is ostensibly a straightforward narrative.

Jeanne Moreau plays Celestine, the new maid in a pre-war estate of the French bourgeoisie. They are bereft of morality, devoid of depth. All the women are completely empty. The men at least have lust to occupy their existence before they pass away from their pathetic lives as Nazi sympathizers, shoe-fetishists, and abusive impotents. Celestine rejects everyone's advances in an unemotional way. People die. Celestine seduces the man who seems to be the killer, accepts his marriage proposal then turns him in when she is sure. He gets off anyway. Celestine eventually maneuvers herself into the very life she appeared to disdain. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1, enhanced for 16x9 screens. (B&W)

  • spectacular newly remastered DVD transfer

  • interviews with the director and screenwriter

I understood the characters' motivations in Renoir's version. It was obvious there, from the beginning, that Celeste was a scheming gold-digger. Here, heaven only knows. I think the original story took place at the turn of the century, but Bu˝uel really wanted to study the behavior of fascists, so he relocated it to the period before WW2. 

Beats me.

I do know that the film is one of the most proficiently photographed B&W films I've ever seen, and that this is a magnificent new, crisp widescreen transfer, so you should be thrilled if you're a Bu˝uel fan.


The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 3.5/4, Filmcritic.com 5/5, 

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.4 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a - I don't know. Frankly, I don't get it. I don't respond to this film emotionally or intellectually, but a lot of people say it is a masterpiece. I guess it must be a C+, since most of you will join me in saying "WTF?" so it can't have any crossover appeal.

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