Sylvie Testud, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Isabelle Renauld, François Levanthal, Dominique Labourier, Jean-Gabriel Nordmann
In French; English subtitles; collection of intimate interview excerpts from French television with director Henri-Georges Clouzot and key "Quai des Orfèvres" actors, filmed in 1971; poster gallery; new essay by Luc Sante; original theatrical trailer.
|The Papin sisters, two servants who unexpectedly butchered their mistress and her daughter in provincial Le Mans, France, during the early 1930s, allegedly inspired Jean Genet's play "The Maids." Using the lurid true story of Christine and Léa Papin as a framework, director Jean-Pierre Denis suggests how the class system that kept the impoverished girls toiling as domestics may have led to the awful crime they committed. "Murderous Maids" finds its seething, simmering heart in an imposing yet controlled performance by Sylvie Testud as resentful older sister Christine, who mentors Léa in the ways of servitude. Julie-Marie Parmentier, as the more innocent and malleable Léa, is a perfect complement to Testud. As historical horror film, as creepy psychodrama or as case study of the potential damage wrought by class struggle, the film is affecting in its dusky setting and depiction of gloomy, dead-end lives. Denis gives his tale of tragic, destructive siblings a stark beauty that's difficult to forget.|