Diary of a Chambermaid (Directors Suite) (1964)

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Released 13-Oct-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-by Dr. Adrian Martin
Featurette-'Angel in the Marshes' documentary
Gallery-Poster-Two theatrical posters
Theatrical Trailer-Original theatrical trailer, narrated by Jeanne Moreau
Trailer-Four Directors Suite trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 93:45
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:41) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luis Buñuel

Madman Entertainment
Starring Jeanne Moreau
Georges Géret
Daniel Ivernel
Françoise Lugagne
Jean Ozenne
Michel Piccoli
Joëlle Bernard
Françoise Bertin
Aline Bertrand
Pierre Collet
Michel Dacquid
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Luis Buñuel adapted Octave Mirabeau's famous 1900 novel Diary of a Chambermaid (Le Journal d'une femme de chambre) after Jean Renoir had unsuccessfully tried to film it in 1946 during his Hollywood period. This film was his first film since the controversial releases of Viridiana (1961) and The Exterminating Angel (1962). It also represented the beginning of a very fruitful partnership with producer Serge Silberman who produced all of Buñuel's late period French films, from 1964 to 1977. Scriptwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, who like Silberman would work for the first time on a film with Buñuel on Diary of a Chambermaid and subsequently would work on almost all of his films until retirement, moved the setting of the novel to 1930s provincial France for this movie. Jeanne Moreau plays Celestine who leaves Paris to take up the position of chambermaid in the household of a well-to-do family in the west of France, near Cherbourg. The head of the family is Monsieur Rabour, an old man with a shoe fetish, his daughter, the obsessive Madame Monteil, and her weak husband, Monsieur Monteil (Michel Piccoli) who seeks to take advantage of all new female staff. The final main character is Joseph, the right-wing misogynistic groundsman who rapes and kills a child and who Celestine plans to take revenge on, using herself as a lure to do so.

     Diary Of a Chambermaid is pessimistic film in the sense that although it is an attack on the bourgeoisie culture, ultimately there doesn't seem much one can do to arrest its effects. This is Buñuel’s only film in anamorphic scope widescreen (i.e. 2:35:1) and it is filmed by Roger Fellous in a 1930s black-and-white old style. Diary of a Chambermaid was not a critical hit at the time of its release which prompted Buñuel to make similar themed movies from then on in his more familiar surrealist style.

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Transfer Quality


     Filmed in France in late 1963 in the midst of the French New Wave cinematic era, Diary of a Chambermaid does not have the look of a New Wave film. Rather it is much less frenetic than a New Wave film and more contemplative.

     The aspect ratio is 2:35:1, 16x9 enhanced. Sharpness is quite good and with an average bitrate of 7.0 m/b per sec, there are no compression issues to speak of with this transfer.

     The black-and-white transfer looks dull and flat. I feel that this was a deliberate choice on behalf of the film makers to depict the bleak country bourgeoisie lifestyle of the main characters in the film, who often are made to look by Buñuel as sad and pathetic. Film artefacts are present, but these are rare and temporal.

     Subtitles are available in English in default white or alternatively in yellow.

     The RSDL change occurs at 72:41 during a scene change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The soundtrack is unique because it contains no music whatsoever! The French main soundtrack and the English audio commentary soundtrack are both encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 kbps.

     Dialogue is clear and synchronised. As there is no music in the film, the plot sequences are much more bare and emotionally raw than they would have been if scenes had background music added.

     There is no surround channel action here with this mono soundtrack. The subwoofer is not utilised either.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Audio Commentary by Dr. Adrian Martin, Associate Professor and Head of Film and Television Studies, Monash University and Co-editor of Rouge Magazine

     Again, Dr. Martin's commentary sets apart this release of the film from other Regional versions. He mentions the bleak nature of the film, the lack of musical accompaniment, the hypocrisy of the main characters and labels the film as post-surrealist, an attempt by Buñuel to honour his literary hero, Octave Mirbeau. He also discusses Swiss critic Freddy Buache's view that the film is well-balanced, with the death of Monsieur Rabour and the young girl Claire setting off a chain of events which restarts the film it seems, albeit in a totally different direction. View the film once and then view it with Dr. Martin's commentary to better understand Buñuel's adaptation of Mirbeau's novel.

An Angel in the Marshes documentary (27:07)

     This featurette is not so much a documentary as a video essay on the film which explains the film using short scenes from it. The contrast between the bourgeoisie characters and their hypocrisy is highlighted here. Also included is a short filmography/biography of Buñuel. Frequent late period Buñuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière also offers his thoughts in this wonderful extra. This featurette is presented in French with English subtitles.

Original theatrical posters

     Two original posters are presented here in this extra.

Original theatrical trailer (3:35)

     This is a unique trailer in that Jeanne Moreau narrates throughout and discusses the plot.

Directors Suite trailers

     Four Directors Suite trailers are included for Lars von Trier and Jørgen Leth's The Five Obstructions, Luis Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel, Jean-Luc Godard's Vivre Sa Vie and Kon Ichikawa's An Actor's Revenge.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Diary of Chambermaid was first released in the United States in a Region-free format by the Criterion Collection. Extras include a video interview with screenwriter and long-time Buñuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière, the original theatrical trailer and a 12-page fold-out booklet, featuring an essay by film critic Michael Atkinson and the transcript of a late 1970s interview with director Luis Buñuel. A bare-bones Region 2 release by Warner Bros in the United Kingdom contained no extras and a video transfer slightly cropped at 2:29:1. Optimum Releasing included the film recently in a 8-disc boxset entitled The Luis Buñuel Collection. This release includes the same An Angel in the Marshes documentary as the Region 4 Directors Suite release.

     As the Region free Criterion Collection release of Diary of a Chambermaid is now out-of-print (as of June 30th, 2010), the Region 4 version of the film is thus the best available version of the film currently on DVD.


     If you are a fan of Luis Buñuel's films then this tile will no doubt interest you. As the Criterion Collection release of the film is now out-of-print, this Region 4 version is simply outstanding thanks mainly due to the quality extras with an audio commentary by Dr. Martin and a video essay of the film, An Angel in the Marshes. This release by Madman's Directors Suite label comes highly recommended. Do not hesitate to pick this one up, you'll be glad you did!

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Friday, December 10, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Yes good review but how does the video compare??? - NewcastleBoy (read my bio) REPLY POSTED