MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 05/07/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you are depressed, just lost your significant other, lost out on that promotion, just had your car reposessed...do not go see Jean-Pierre Denis' "Murderous Maids." It's a real downer. But a downer with just the right amount of the absurd and the ridiculous to make it viable as entertainment.
"Murderous Minds" tells the story of Lea and Christine, two sisters who are sold into servitude by their mother; into the house of a French Bourgeoisie housewife who literally checks the dusting with a white glove. Madam is very persnickity about the household cleaning and the food bills and for a time forms a bond with the eldest sister, Christine who shares Madam's adherence to the highest standards. That is until Madam finds Lea and Christine "en flagrante delicto." Then the title of this little film comes into play and the tone changes from "A Room with a View" to le grand guignol.
Christine is the lynchpin of this film and she is a great character fulminating with rage and passion that inevitably leads her down the path towards mental illness...or is she merely having a very bad week? Lea the younger sister is a giggly mass of jello more than happy to be molded into a lover by Christine. Both actresses play their roles to the hilt and beyond culminating in the prison scenes in which both come very close to literally chewing the scenery. But it is all such a hoot that we care little and gladly suspend our disbelief; even though we do it with our mouths agape. Anyone remember Ken Russell's "The Devils?"
I suppose one could nit pick the weak psychological and social motivations of the characters and the film: why exactly is Christine so upset? Why does the mother find it necessary to take her younger daughter's wages when she herself is employed?
One of the major set pieces of "Murderous Maids" is Christine in the Mayor's office hysterically demanding that Lea be emancipated from their mother that ends in Christine being thrown out for causing a scene. It is so filled with over-ripe passion and hate it singes your ears and makes your stomach ache. Now that is moviemaking!
"Murderous Maids" is the kind of movie that dares you to laugh it off or ignore it...but it is so fabulously over-the-top in a Douglas Sirk/Roman Polanski way that you won't be able to."
Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 06/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
This film tells the tawdry story of the notorious Papin sisters, and it is quite a story. In early 1933, a crime of dreadful and shocking brutality stunned the nation of France, and its citizens watched in horror as the facts unfolded. The Papin sisters, Christine and Lea, stood accused of savagely murdering their employer, Madame Lancelin, and her daughter, Genevieve, in the household where they worked as maids.
In late 1933, the trial resulted in the elder sister, Christine, being convicted of both murders and sentenced to death, a sentence later commuted to that of life in prison. She would die four years later in an asylum for the criminally insane. Her younger sister, Lea, was also convicted, but only of the murder of Madame Lancelin, and was sentenced to serve ten years of hard labor. She served eight years of her ten year sentence and was then released, living to a ripe old age.
In the film, the viewer sees that the sisters came from a totally dysfunctional household. Their mother, the selfish and unloving Clemence (Isabel Renauld), kicked her alcoholic husband out the household, when she discovered that he had been molesting their oldest daughter, Emilie. She then placed their three daughters in a Catholic orphanage run by nuns. Clemence, relieved of the day-to-day responsibility of her daughters, would see them on occasion.
Emilie eventually decided to become a nun. When Christine later expressed an interest in following in Emilie's footsteps, her mother quashed that notion. Instead, as Christine (Sylvie Testud) grew older, Clemence looked to her as a source of income, hiring her out to work as a maid. The viewer sees the deadening effect of her servitude, as her employers treat Christine as a virtual nonentity. Initially, Christine tested the patience of some of her earlier employers to whom she was, at times, slyly insolent. Later, she resorted to passive-aggressive behavior.
As time passes, however, Christine becomes more superficially accepting of her lot in life. Yet, the viewer can see an embittered Christine internalize her resentment, frustration, and dissatisfaction with her situation. Eventually, Christine's relationship with her mother totally deteriorates, and it is clear that there is little love lost between the two. Consequently, Christine grows up to be a tightly wound young woman, polite, reticent, and quiet, but seething with a strong current of emotion beneath the surface.
After a number of jobs as a maid, Christine finally finds a post with the well-to-do Lincelan family in the town of Le Mans. When Lea (Julie-Marie Parmentier) grows older, Clemence seeks to place her as a maid, as well. Having vowed that she would always look after her younger sister, Lea, Christine hatches a scheme. Not wanting to be separated from her sister, Christine manipulates her employer and ensures that Lea is placed with her in the Lincelan home.
At first, all seems well, although they find themselves looking for ways of circumventing the pettiness of their employer's frugality towards them. Then, Christine and Lea's relationship begins to change. Eventually, the somewhat dim Lea would come under the total domination of her sister. They would spend all their time together, and their close, sisterly relationship would develop a sexual component, leading to a shocking, incestuous relationship, with Lea always following Christine's lead.
One day, Madame Lincelan and her daughter return home unexpectedly, while Christine and Lea are engaged in activities other than their chores. When Christine goes to head them off at the pass, all hell breaks loose, as she takes some pretty extreme action towards them. Lea joins her in forever silencing the petty despots who had ruled their lives with an iron fist. These whirling dervishes of destruction would show no mercy.
This is a very well acted film. Sylvie Testud turns in a bravura performance as the edgy, emotionally repressed, and mentally unbalanced Christine. Julie-Marie Parmentier lends a dewy innocence to the role of Lea. The rest of the cast likewise gives excellent performances. The cinematography is suitably neutral in tone, lending a stark, austere quality to the film. This is a film that will keep the viewer riveted, but in the end it can hardly be said to be enjoyable in the accepted sense, as the emotions that it conjures are so disquieting. Still, this is a deftly directed, well acted film that is certainly worth seeing, especially if one is a true crime aficionado.
Chilling & effective
lady detective | east coat | 02/09/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"the movie tells the story of two sisters, working as maids, who through a sad combination of servitude, ignorance, psychological ailments, incest & lack of privacy, brutally murder two of their employers.the film captured me from the first scene, and i was riveted throughout- i gave it 4 instead of 5 stars, because i wanted more on their early childhood- but as the director comments in the included interview- 'what you leave out is as important as what you leave in'. highly recommended!!!"
Murder Is The Least Of It
SORE EYES | 06/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Les Blessuers Assassines
Two sisters with an abusive mother are forced into servitude as maids. The eldest sister forms a protective bond over her younger sister to shelter her from their mother. Eventually the bond turns incestuous. When the madam of their household discovers their relationship and threatens to expose them, the sisters turn to murder to protect their secret.
Based on the true story of the Papin sisters, Murderous Maids is interesting and well acted. The movie forgoes delving into the psychological motivations of these two women. Best I can guess from the content of the film is that they felt like it was them against the world. Poor, uneducated, unwanted, picked on by their employer and their mother, it seems they only had each other and would do anything to protect their relationship.
I've seen enough French films to feel indifferent to the theme of this movie but be warned that many other reviewers found it dark and disturbing. I've written this before-the French are so...inventive when it comes to relationships and when passion takes hold, they let it flow over all reason.
If you like this movie, I'd high suggest watching One to Another and Savage Grace which are also based on a true crimes involving incest and murder."
A Profoundly Moving, Gripping Tale of Class Unrest and the I
Gwendolyn Noles | 05/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Murderous Maids MURDEROUS MAIDS (LES BLESSURES ASSASSINES) is a tremendously powerful look at the complexities and subtleties underlying the 1933 murders committed in Le Mans, France by the Papin sisters. Though the film has all the ingredients that could easily have made it an exploitative potboiler (incest, lesbianism, murder), it is anything but that!! INSTEAD, it is a film that studies in quiet detail a relationship between two sisters marginalized by society because they are merely maids and how their repressed "selves" explode when they reach their breaking points. In terms of the social context of the characters, these women are voiceless and repressed outside the confines of their meager quarters in the attic of their employer. The bond that they develop is as much out of revolt against society as it is out of profound desire and genuine love for one another. In the hands of a less astute director, the film would have failed. But, in the hands of director Jean-Pierre Denis, it triumphs boldly. The true burning center of the film is actress Sylvie Testud. Her performance as the elder sister whose alliance with her younger sister turns into a case of amour fou, is positively riveting. She is by turns taciturn and passionate, fiercely intelligent and wildly insane, profoundly sad and deeply in love. There were times while watching her on screen when I truly forgot that I was watching a performance. I honestly believed she was this woman she was playing. This has only happened to me one or two times in my film-watching life, and it stunned me this time more than ever before. Though the crime these women are guilty of is horrific and the relationship they develop is problematic, their story is totally compelling and the film is extraordinary. "