Murderous Maids

In 1933, Christine and Lea Papin, two French sisters working as maids, murdered and mutilated their mistress and her daughter, confessing after police found them in bed together. The case caused a sensation, and since then it's been the subject of books, movies, and a play by Jean Genet. Jean-Pierre Denis' 2000 feature accommodates the views of both Jean-Paul Sartre, who blamed the carnage on class struggle, and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, who blamed it on Christine's mental illness. The bourgeois household is stultifying (its mistress is outraged when Christine suggests that the maids have rights), and Sylvie Testud offers an incisive portrayal of Christine's gathering madness. Julie-Marie Parmentier is fetching as the vulnerable younger sister, and the duo generate considerable erotic tension; unfortunately Denis' detached and indifferent camera never gets inside the story, its characters, or its milieu. In French with subtitles. 94 min.

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