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The Maids
The Maids
Actors: Glenda Jackson, Susannah York, Vivien Merchant, Mark Burns
Director: Christopher Miles
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
PG     2003     1hr 35min

Solange & claire are paris maids who tend to cruel socialite madames unending domestic needs. Whenever madame is away the sisters obsessively act out a complex role-playing psychodrama of domination & control that feeds th...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Glenda Jackson, Susannah York, Vivien Merchant, Mark Burns
Director: Christopher Miles
Creators: Douglas Slocombe, Christopher Miles, Peter Tanner, Ben Baker, Gordon Scott, Robert Enders, Jean Genet
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Kino Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 04/01/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/1974
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1974
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 35min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Powerful performances
JOHN A. STEVENS | ORLANDO, FL United States | 09/11/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The productions of the American Film Theatre have long been unavailable for viewing, either commerically or via broadcast. This filmed production of Jean Genet's 'The Maids' is arguably one of the best of the series. Glenda Jackson and Susannah York play sisters Solange and Claire, two maids, who take turns dressing up as their mistress (played by Vivien Merchant) and abusing each other in a parody of the master/slave relationship. Since the source material is a stage play, the plot is dialog driven, and in lesser hands this would have been excruciatingly dull. But Ms. Jackson and Ms. York (and Ms. Merchant) give full-throttle performances, and Christopher Miles' skillful direction never lets the tension lag for a moment as the secrets of the sisters are revealed one by one. If you require an editing cut every four or five seconds, this is not the movie for you. If you want to see three great actresses taking it to the limit, buy this film."
A dark drama
Fred Camfield | Vicksburg, MS USA | 02/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a special American Film Theater production of a stageplay. Some outdoor scenes have been added. The setting is in Paris. The time span covered is one day, from early morning to late evening.

A woman lives in an upscale neighborhood in Paris. She has two maids to take care of cleaning and cooking. The maids have developed a habit of role playing while madam is away from home, alternately taking turns to play madam and interact with a maid. They get into her clothes, her makeup, and her jewelry, but must time themselves to have everything back in order before madam returns home.

In their twisted minds, the maids have developed a plot. They send an anonymous letter to the police denouncing the woman's lover and having him arrested. He is dragged away as the play opens. They then plot to give the woman sleeping pills in her tea (heavily sugared). An obvious tragedy as the woman is distraught over the arrest of her lover.

But things go very wrong. A judge releases the man on bail. They cannot get the woman to drink the tea as she flitters about her room. She then rushes out to meet the man, leaving them alone. They are afraid the letter may be traced back to themselves as the woman intends to check the paper and ink.

You must watch carefully to understand what is going on. The maids go into one final episode of role playing that is taken to an ultimate climax. The play has a dark ending as the maids lead themselves into their own destruction. The play is not for everyone. Some people will not like this type plot."
The Cruelty of Longing
Curt Surly | Bellingham, WA United States | 05/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When I saw this film, I was pathologically attracted to the intense longing haunting each of the three main characters. Both Suzannah York and Glenda Jackson project an exquisite pathos that left me tingling with desire I've rarely experienced in front of a television set. Vivien Merchant glows with knowledge of the simple fact of her power over the lives of her filthy, animalistic subjects. She may be a mere mortal, and not royalty, but she nevertheless treats Solange and Claire with an insidious disdain that drives the film. She is one of the elect and they are...whatever, it isn't important. Solange and Claire never complete their homocidal pantomimes with one another because they rely too heavily upon the pleasure inherent in the acts themselves. The rituals allow them escape and closeness that is otherwise denied them in their daily occupation as maids for an insensitive, psychologically cunning mistress. Genet's play was based upon the case of the Papin Sisters, Christine and Lea. These were two incestuous sisters who worked as maids in Le Mans France in the early 1930's. Between them, they butchered both the woman of the house and her daughter. Christina dominated her sister yet cried out for her in prison.
The psychological bond between Christina and Lea led no less a personage than Jacques Lacan to write about them just after the murders.This film is a bit of a conceit, because the dialogue is far smarter than one would expect from such lowly creatures. Of course, the joy is observing the great care and tremendous fun that each actress has with the words. Indeed, words are poison teasingly administered in a game of protracted strangulation that needs no precise denouement to bring on the flowers of oblivion."