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Drawing by John Willie, from Willie, from Diary of a French Maid


A maidservant or in current usage maid is a female employed in domestic service. Once part of an elaborate hierachy in great houses, today the maid may be the only domestic worker that middle and even upper-income households can afford. In the West, comparatively few households can afford live-in domestic help, usually compromising on periodic cleaners. In less developed nations, fewer educated women and limited opportunities for working women ensures a labour source for domestic work.

Maids perform typical domestic chores such as cooking, ironing, washing, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, walking the family dog, and taking care of children. In some countries, maids take on the role of a nurse in taking care of the elderly and people with disabilities. Maids are often expected to work at least fifteen hours per day. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maid [Feb 2005]

A servant is another word for domestic worker, a person who is hired to provide regular household or other duties, and receives compensation. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant [Feb 2005]

The Maids (1974) Christopher Miles

The Maids (1974) Christopher Miles [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Maids is the name of a claustrophobic 1974 film starring Glenda Jackson, Susannah York, Vivien Merchant, and Mark Burns. It is based on the play of the same name by Jean Genet and was directed by Christopher Miles.

Before it was filmed by the American Film Theatre, it ran at the Greenwich Theatre, London, with the same principal cast later used for the film version. Genet based his play on the infamous Papin sisters, Lea and Christine, who brutally murdered their employer and her daughter in Le Mans, France, in 1933.

The story can be read as an absurdist exposition on the intricate power dynamic that exists between unequals. Glenda Jackson and Suzannah York play Solange and Claire, two housemaids who construct elaborate sadomasochistic rituals when Madame (Vivien Merchant) is away. The focus of their Theatre is the murder of Madame and they take turns portraying either side of the power divide. The deliberate pace and devotion to detail guarantees that they always fail to actualize their fantasies by ceremoniously "killing" Madame at the ritual's denouement.

The Maids was filmed by cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, who deliberately implemented many of Genet's theatrical devices for the film. The camera was often static, the settings lush and extravagant. Genet's dialog is spit by Jackson in derisive fury at Madame's insouciance. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Maids [Feb 2005]

The Servant (1963) - Joseph Losey

The Servant (1963) - Joseph Losey [Amazon.com]

The Servant is a 1963 British film, directed by Joseph Losey and starring Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, Wendy Craig, and James Fox.

The film, based on the book of the same name by Robin Maugham, is a tightly woven psychological thriller that conveys the absolute coldness of the central characters towards any of the "joy that life is haunted by". Bogarde plays the title character, Hugo Barrett, with a seemingly desperate mixture of deliberateness and resignation. The energy in the film is kept bottled up but is not given a proper release that might bring closure to some viewers.

Tony and Susan (Fox and Craig) hardly exist at all. Tony hires Hugo for reasons that aren't quite clear. He's an accomplished person, capable of tending to his own needs, living in comfort surrounded by familiar tokens of his abilities. Yet, he's frozen. Susan is filled with quiet desperation but she's all dried up inside. She has nothing to give so he turns to the haughty, contemptuous servant to revive his manly spirit.

Throughout the film, Losey uses the Harold Pinter tune, "All Gone" to express the silent agonies each character is suffering through as their lives ware on. Pinter also wrote the screenplay and made a brief cameo appearance. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Servant [Feb 2005]

Diary of a Chambermaid/Journal D'Une Femme de Chambre - (1965) - Luis Buņuel

Diary of a Chambermaid/Journal D'Une Femme de Chambre - (1965) - Luis Buņuel [Amazon.com]

Considered surrealist Luis Buņuel most linear film, Diary of a Chambermaid is an excellent introduction to this director's dark satirical world of social criticism. Loosely based on Mirbeau's Journal D'Une Femme de Chambre, Buņuel uses the beautiful French countryside as a backdrop to ruthlessly display his favorite subjects: Catholicism, the bourgeoisie, nationalism, and moral decay. Jeanne Moreau is Celestine, a chambermaid from Paris who takes a job at a picturesque country estate. When the body of the staff's daughter is discovered raped and murdered, Celesine does whatever is necessary to uncover the girl's killer. She quickly learns that her new employees, though apparent pillars of nouveau aristocracy, are as morally corrupt as the girl’s murderer. Though extremely linear for Buņuel, Diary of a Chambermaid does not lack for profound, symbolic imagery and cryptic revelations. --Rob Bracco, Amazon.com

The Diary of a Chambermaid () - Octave Mirbeau

The Diary of a Chambermaid () - Octave Mirbeau [Amazon.com]

Written as a satire of Parisian society in the wake of the Dreyfus Affair, this novel was dismissed prurient critics of the time as pornography. Mirbeau brings a journalist's analytical eye to the chambermaid Celestine's adventures as she loses her innocence and becomes as corrupt and depraved as the men who exploit her. Realistic and compelling, the story has attracted the attention of many artists, including Jean Renoir and Luis Brunel, who filmed it; and it has been compared with Fanny Hill and the Marquis de Sade's Justine and Juliette. --via Amazon.com

Spanking the Maid (1998) - Robert Coover

Spanking the Maid (1998) - Robert Coover [Amazon.com]

The New York Times Book Review, Alan Friedman
Spanking the Maid is hard-core allegory.... a very funny book, a tragicomedy.

"Though Coover's message is bleak, his delivery is wonderfully comic" (Bharati Mukherjee, "The Globe & Mail" (Toronto)) in this spare, tantalizing, and perfect book, named by Daphne Merkin in "The New Yorker" as one of her "favorite" S/M books.

Taking a cue from Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, (1947) and his own short stories featured in Pricksongs and Descants, what would seem to be only an experiment develops into a real commentary on self-reference and post structuralism. Coover's treatment of the master-slave, dominant-submissive relationship serves to show the sado-masochistic exchange that exists in language when that language becomes "meta" language, or language about language. In this way all "criticism" is "criticized," begging the question: if meta language is sado-masochistic, what is meta-meta language?

The novel also works despite its subject matter-- if Coover had chosen some other setting, one could still delight in the way he weaves repitition into an ongoing cascade, each permutation the same and wholly different. Chaos theory as literary genre? Now who's being sado-masochistic? --Jason Edwards via amazon.com

Robert Coover was born in Charles City, Iowa on February 4, 1932. He graduated from Indiana University in 1955, then served in the United States Navy. He received a Master of Arts degree from the University of Chicago in 1965 and has served as a teacher or writer in residence at many universities. He is generally considered a writer of fabulation and metafiction. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Coover [Jul 2004]

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