Cultural Critique of a Hong Kong Christian

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2019年4月13日 星期六

Luis Buñuel’s “The Diary of a Chambermaid” (1964) — Bookmarks & Notes

The political overtone in the film indicates the Fascist movement in 1920s France


1. A New York Times report on Feb 9, 1964, p.9:
“The final scene, much discussed in the press here, takes place during a demonstration by the French Fascist organization, Les Camelots du Roi.”
Who is Chiappe?
“ As marchers parade by, Joseph cries out the last words that will be heard on the sound track: ‘Vive Chiappe!’ The irony of this cheer may be somewhat lost on the moviegoer who is not acquainted with French social and political history between the wars, Chiappe having been the Paris prefect of police who, in 1930, tried to stop public showings of Bunuel’s early and still controversial masterpiece, ‘L’Age d’Or.’

2. Victoria Loy‘s article in Senses of Cinema, April 2005
Fascism and boots:
“ Another of the elements that contribute to the cumulative implication of the film is the boot, with its erotic and Fascist overtones. […] We see that Joseph is alive and has prospered (despite being incriminated by his own boots), along with the right-wing faction he has supported. Perhaps an admiration for black leather boots should be harmlessly indulged in the boudoir, as part of the uniform of a maid, rather than during a goose-stepping parade as part of the uniform of a Fascist, and in terms of a desire for discipline at the hands of a spouse or servant rather than a dictator.”
“ The film’s political overtones reference class struggle, but more directly the emerging French Fascism of the 1930s that would culminate in the Vichy government. While a more consistent character than Celestine, Joseph is an unrepentant brute: anti-Semitic, murderous, committed in his struggle against the blue-collar ‘Bolshevists’ who would degrade France by attacking the army and the church. Buñuel strengthens his critique by pairing Joseph with a sidekick who is a sexton, alluding to the way that many French clergy (and the Vatican itself) supported the Fascist party. While the demonstration scene at Cherbourg involves a joke from the director (Joseph shouts ‘Vive Chiappe’ — a reference to the prefect of police who banned Buñuel’s 1930 film L’Age d’Or), the situation to which he is drawing attention is anything but.”
Inconsistent emotion and behaviour of Celestine, the protagonist:
“ Buñuel omits a line that appears in the novel and in the Renoir version, ‘No more love for Celestine’, which signals her decision to pursue material comfort rather than romance and would have provided a more visible motive for her union with the Captain — whereas here it seems arbitrary, unlikely. Far from being amour fou, her interest in the Captain extends as far as his material position. Celestine’s disdain for the Monteils and their class does not translate to a disinterest in their advantages, something that was perhaps cued by her introduction — she steps out of the station on wobbly heels (a way of walking that helped win her the part, along with the manner in which she ate lunch), gorgeously clad in a modish coat, leather gloves and fur muff, looking far more like a member of the upper class than one who polishes their cutlery.”
“ Celestine is not committed to anything; her sudden marriage to the Captain is chosen by Buñuel because the irrational is more faithful to the unconscious. Buñuel’s Celestine avoids the possibly more irrational fate of Mirbeau’s, who ends up with Joseph in Cherbourg, repulsed and attracted by his demonic qualities, aware of his guilt but ultimately ‘happy to be with him’. This situation grants Joseph’s character a more strongly Fascist quality, but was perhaps not broadly political enough for Buñuel, as it seems tied more to an individual psychopathology.”




3. Jamie S. Rich’s review, 12 Mar 2013
“Our last image of Celestine is of her in bed, eating breakfast, and ordering Mauger to take away her food. She has become the Madame.
At the same time, she has already grown bored. It’s the second time we’ve seen her as such. Prior to that, at what is pretty much the dead center of the film, we witness what I would call Diary of a Chambermaid’s pivotal moment: a yawn. While old Rabour fusses with her boot and waxes poetic about how he will polish it, Celestine is barely able to stifle her disinterest. This is Jeanne Moreau’s masterstroke. She shows that Celestine is above all of these petty things, above the jealousies and the base desires and even the seemingly silly politics. She belongs elsewhere, she’s not just not sure where. That restlessness creeps back in at the end. She realizes that Mauger’s home is not her own, and as it’s immediately juxtaposed with Joseph and a fascist march, we can extrapolate that France is no longer her home either.”
Appendix:
  1. Movie script of Diary of a Chambermaid
2. Q&A with Jean-Claude Carrière, who co-wrote the screenplay with Buñuel (2015)

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