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Critics reviews
Diary of a Chambermaid
Benoît Jacquot France, 2015
Director Benoit Jacquot (Sade, A Tout de Suite) favors pronounced camera zooms, which become more ominous as his satirical drama morphs into a psychological crime thriller.
August 03, 2016
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Jacquot doesn’t have the same cachet as either of these titans [Renoir and Buñuel], but he’s no slouch either, especially when it comes to vibrantly depicting the intersection between sexual aggression, political power dynamics and female experience. Still, his version can’t help but feel like a second-tier take on this familiar story. It compares just as poorly to the veteran French director’s best work, particularly 1997’s Seventh Heaven and 2012’s Farewell My Queen.
June 13, 2016
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The anti-bourgeois indignation of Mirbeau’s vision is expanded in this film, which can be read as expressing a nearly entirely dismissive skepticism of progressive notions of “empowerment.” This will likely make it unpopular in certain circles. But the immediate effect Jacquot achieves, with quiet droll and some considerable dread, is bracing.
June 10, 2016
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Jacquot has a knack for presenting the way drama and drudgery can intermingle in working life. (See: A Single Girl, still his best film, which follows a hotel employee in more or less real time.) His version of Diary Of A Chambermaid, however, never really invests its assorted intrigues with the same mix of prurience and genuine concern, even on a purely visual level.
June 09, 2016
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Jacquot keeps the film fluid and dynamic. He mounts scenes in which Celestine races up and down the stairs chore to chore, sweating, nearly fainting, trying to fulfill the sadistic orders of her gloating boss. Her loss, however, is the movie’s gain. She can barely breathe, but the film begins to. The movement unleashes an expansive energy, which he harnesses and channels.
June 09, 2016
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Jacquot quite competently tells the story, involving us in a variety of un-lanced tensions… But there’s no sense of surprise in this Diary of a Chambermaid, even for those who’re unfamiliar with the material. What this film most reflects of the contemporary age is its obsession with plot-heavy television that abounds in event at the expense of emotional portraiture.
June 08, 2016
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There’s perverse pleasure in defiling beauty; thus Benoît Jacquot’s Diary of a Chambermaid, set in a luminous French countryside peopled with carefully costumed snobs, hypocrites, anti-Semites and thieves. “Costumed” not because they make much effort to conceal their sins, but because this is a period piece; Jacquot’s quick and vicious version is the fourth screen adaptation of French writer Octave Mirbeau’s 1900 novel.
June 07, 2016
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Jacquot’s uneven take on the material won’t challenge the stature of the versions overseen by Jean Renoir in 1946 and Luis Buñuel in 1964. But star Léa Seydoux further demonstrates, with each sly, gap-toothed grin, a keen understanding of power and impotence.
June 07, 2016
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Throughout, Jacquot provides only rare glimpses of the vivacity that makes the titular chambermaid so appealing to her suitors, forcing one to take on faith her mercurial charms. As if to make up for Léa Seydoux’s sullen turn, Jacquot portrays the corruption and degeneracy of rural French society, which Renoir and Buñuel depicted with witty euphemism and droll symbolism, with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
February 18, 2016
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Jacquot scrambles chronology a bit here and there to pinpoint the origins of this or that aspect of Célestine’s drive to determine her own fate and he pulls the occasional rapid zoom for whatever reason, but all in all, Diary, surprisingly, just doesn’t warrant much more attention.
February 07, 2015
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Sticking more closely to the original text than his predecessors, Jacquot opts for a rather classically helmed version that starts off promisingly with its various jibes at upper-class hypocrisy, before fizzling out in a third act that lacks the necessary emotional flair. Like its ravishing heroine, doomed to a long life of domestic subservience — and played here by a charming and compelling Lea Seydoux — this Chambermaid has its bodice strapped on a tad too tightly to please.
February 07, 2015
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In this slender, slippery update, Benoit Jacquot has at least balanced his with a measure of kinky japery: While it’s the least vivid of the three versions, it arguably comes closest to matching the sauciness of the source.
February 07, 2015
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