Rent The Maids (1975)

3.3 of 5 from 52 ratings
1h 30min
Rent The Maids (aka Jean Genet's The Maids) Online DVD & Blu-ray Rental
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One of the most fascinating films in the entire AFT Collection,'The Maids' is a controversial work by notorious light-fingered novelist/poet/thief Jean Genet (Querelle). In 'The Maids', Genet creates a surreal and illusory world, dealing unsentimentally with society's outcasts. The plot is roughly based on the Papin sisters - real life murderous maids from the 1930's. Glenda Jackson is at her sneering finest as Solange, and as Claire, Susannah York exudes dark sexuality and malevolence. Claire and Solange are the twisted sister maids of the title,working for Vivien Merchant's Madame in a chic Parisian townhouse.
The maids' play-acting slowly reveals dark desires, skewed sexual and class politics and even worse, dementia and murderous intent. With fluid cinematography by the great Douglas Slocombe, 'The Maids' is a dangerous and provocative look at the darker recesses of the human soul.
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Robert Enders
Robert Enders, Jean Genet, Christopher Miles
Jean Genet's The Maids
Classics, Drama, Romance
The Instant Expert's Guide, The Instant Expert's Guide to Claude Chabrol, The Instant Expert's Guide to: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Release Date:
Run Time:
90 minutes
English Dolby Digital 2.0
DVD Regions:
Region 0 (All)
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 1.78:1 / 16:9
  • Interviews with Susannah York and Edie Landau
  • Article: Jean Genet and 'The Maids' by Michael Feingold
  • Stills Gallery
  • Poster
  • AFT Cinebill for 'The Maids'
  • AFT Trailer Gallery

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Reviews (1) of The Maids

Maids Of Honour - The Maids review by NC

Spoiler Alert

Sisters Solange and Claire are maids to Madame. It cannot be said they are happy in the way fate has thrown the dice. When chance dictates, they perform a 'ceremony', each taking turns in the role of mistress and servant, with the climax of each charade being the long-desired death of Madame. Undercurrents within the charades are so dense that lines between chimera and reality have blurred. No longer are wishes confined to fantasy. Madame too is lost in a masquerade. Refusing to believe in the ageing body her mirror shows, she is as blind to that as her refusal to believe the maids are people worthy of being treated as anything more than functionaries at her service. Class warfare evidently did not end with the French Revolution. As happened in 1789, as happened in 1947, when the play was first performed, as happens today, people with nothing slave away for people with everything.

As an outsider himself, continuously in and out of prison for theft and prostitution, it's no wonder Genet knew all about the seething resentment of those who are treated as sub-human. In a story of maids wishing to murder their mistress, there is little doubt where Genet's sympathies lay.

Unable to just walk away, (the sisters have nothing, they would have to steal to survive), they are imprisoned in Madame's apartment. The boudoir where the ceremonies take place is an opulent cell, but it is a cell nevertheless, and the director possibly makes a mistake in opening the play out, if only for brief moments, to the exterior of the building, a police station, a restaurant, the empty night-lit streets. These scenes lessen the oppression of the sisters, trapped inside the walls. It is difficult too not to find that some scenes are just a touch overwrought:- a fancy cocktail of toxins when simple venom would be better.

When you want an actor to spit venom in a play (in an English production) there is Glenda Jackson. All the rest fight it out to be next in line. That doesn't mean she isn't also the best when coolness, indecision, dissemblance, or any other character trait is called for. Susannah York is someone I've always thought of as trying too hard. It's as if you can see her working at it. But I've never seen her better than in 'The Maids'. Perhaps it was just a case of hanging on to Jackson's coat-tails as she soared. Vivien Merchant is brilliant as Madame. Exactly the right amount of condescension, which she thinks is generosity, and the sisters perceive as contempt. Madame can't be bothered to get their names right. She gives a coat to Solange, and then takes it back without realising what she's done. She tells them how lucky they are to be given clothes - "I have to go out and buy them".

'The Maids' is a great play, despite the overwritten fragments, and should be seen just for that reason. If that isn't enough, watch it for Glenda Jackson. To see the greatest practitioner in any field of the Arts is always both a lesson and a treat.

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