Murderous Maids

Critics Consensus

A historical account that is equally disturbing and engrossing, with a powerful performance by Sylvie Testud.

91%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 53

70%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 576
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Murderous Maids Photos

Movie Info

Based on the same infamous murders that inspired Jean Genet's play +The Maids, and the earlier film Sister My Sister, this French drama explores the difficult family life, professional pressures, and forbidden bond that in 1933 led sisters Christine and Lea Papin to murder the mother and daughter who employed them as maids. Based on Paulette Houdyer's novel L'affaire Papin, Les Blessures Assassines traces the childhood of Christine Papin (Sylvie Testud), a high-strung child who follows older sister Emilia to a convent school after their parents' bitter divorce. Emilia, who claims to have been molested by their father, eventually becomes a nun, while Christine goes into service to support her libertine mother (Isabelle Renauld), whom she heartily resents. Coddled youngest sister Lea (Julie-Marie Parmentier), who is allowed to grow up at home, feels torn between her love for her mother and her close bond with Christine. A talented but moody servant who is prompt to demand her rights under France's labor laws, Christine moves from position to position, but eventually finds a series of households where she and the now teenaged Lea can serve together. Living and working together, the sisters develop an uncanny affection that crosses over into lesbian incest. Eventually jealousy, class resentment, and family drama drive Christine over the edge -- and she is not above taking the mostly innocent Lea with her. Released the same year as the Papin documentary En Quete Des Soeurs Papin, Les Blessures Assassines marked the first film in more than a decade from writer/director Jean-Pierre Denis.

Cast

Sylvie Testud
as Christine Papin
Isabelle Renaud
as Clémence
Dominique Labourier
as Mme Lincelain
François Levantal
as Gassed Ex-soldier

Critic Reviews for Murderous Maids

All Critics (53) | Top Critics (19) | Fresh (48) | Rotten (5)

  • Sylvie Testud gives such a ferociously controlled performance that the messy murder seems like a necessary release.

    Jun 17, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Unfortunately Denis' detached and indifferent camera never gets inside the story, its characters, or its milieu.

    Jun 17, 2013 | Full Review…
  • The film studies a world of deeply entrenched class divisions and sexual taboos, and then, with a scream in the night, draws the study to a close, leaving its meaning, like that of the case that inspired it, open to interpretation.

    Jun 17, 2013

    Keith Phipps

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • Julie-Marie Parmentier and Sylvie Testud are eerily convincing as the intense pair of co-dependents in the rigorous but creepy drama Murderous Maids.

    Jul 6, 2010

    Lisa Nesselson

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Convincingly played, but some way short of revelatory.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Though far from a feel-good affair, it is never cheap or cynical. Its creepiness is well-earned.

    Jul 18, 2002 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Murderous Maids

  • Jun 05, 2010
    Disturbing true-life tale of madness that resulted in the brutal murder of a woman and her daughter by their maids, two sisters. Sylvie Testud plays Christine, the elder sister who harbors an unnatural attraction for the less intelligent, younger Lea (Julie-Marie Parmentier) that develops into obsession. The film develops slowly, at times revealing the anger that lies just below the surface in Christine, and at other times showing how the two girls feed each other's fantasies about how their lives would be under other circumstances. Add in a mother (Isabelle Renaud) who seems to care little about her daughters other than how they can make her life easier. The acting is credible, the script plausible and the action keeps one engrossed, especially that of the two sisters interaction when they are alone in their room. The violence at the end is graphic and brutal, but mercifully off camera for the most part. We see the blows and hear them connect, but the actual impact is just out of the frame. There can be no doubt that Christine has taken leave of her senses by the end of the film, and one feels pity for her for that reason. This is a well-done film, just not a whole lot of fun to watch.
    Mark A Super Reviewer
  • Apr 27, 2009
    <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/murderous-maids-12185311"><img src="http://content9.flixster.com/photo/12/18/53/12185311_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/murderous-maids-12185317"><img src="http://content7.flixster.com/photo/12/18/53/12185317_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/murderous-maids-12185327"><img src="http://content9.flixster.com/photo/12/18/53/12185327_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/murderous-maids-12185324"><img src="http://content6.flixster.com/photo/12/18/53/12185324_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/murderous-maids-12185334"><img src="http://content8.flixster.com/photo/12/18/53/12185334_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"></a> </div></div> <div style="width:280px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com/photos/murderous-maids-12185304"><img src="http://content6.flixster.com/photo/12/18/53/12185304_ori.jpg" border="0"/></a><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"> <I>Les Blessures assassines</I> </a></div></div> <I>Les Blessures assassines</I> (2000) Directed by Jean-Pierre Denis Written by Jean-Pierre Denis based on the novel by Paulette Houdyer. Production Designer: Bernard Vézat. With Julie-Marie Parmentier, Isabelle Renauld, Dominique Labourier, François Levantal, Jean-Gabriel Nordmann, Tessa Szczeciniarz, and Charlotte Guille. Jean-Marc Fabre's cinematography adds an element of artistry to this absorbing, racy story about isolation, deprivation, lust and murder. This is the French film version of the 1930's <I>Papin</I> case in which class differences, mental imbalance, and the repression of an incestuous lesbian relationship led to predictable but bizarre results. Two teenage girls, with a mother from hell and an absentee father who may have had an incestuous relationship with the eldest, endure a harsh upbringing in a convent and in the service industry. Tension develops as the sisters' relationship with their scheming, uncaring, amoral mother deteriorates. To make matters more stressful, the insecure pair deal with repeated separations. They end up working together finally, after being employed by successively snobbish, callous, and impossibly unreasonable employers. Class differences are highlighted, as is lesbian tension between the latest employer's daughter and the youngest of the two sisters, resulting in an unstable and emotional triangle. Other factors, such as the general mental imbalance of most of the central characters, and the unjust application of the social status quo, cause potentially serious conflicts to mount and mount like a coiling spring as the film ascends to it's inevitable climax. The other most recent film adaptation, <I>Sister My Sister</I> (1994), was an all woman production directed by Nancy Meckler, and was written by Wendy Kesselman, based on her play. <I>Sister My Sister</I> fictionalized the account a little bit to attempt enhanced audience accessibility. The film included less historical detail, and was not as lurid. However, it just as effectively caught the gist of the case and was no less compelling a story. I would recommend both to any fan of films such as Heavenly Creatures. There are some saliently sensational similarities between the <I>Papin</I> case and the <I>Hulme/Parker</I> case which occurred in New Zealand approximately twenty years later. Beware -there are two versions of <I>Les Blessures assassines</I>. (Both with the Englush title, <I>Murderous Maids</I>) : a family friendlier version, and the appropriately more graphic and contextually detailed one. If this sort of thing isn't your kind of cup of tea, skip them all. If it is, do yourself a favor and see the unabridged version. The controversial scenes are tame by today's standards, and are non-gratuitously central to the plot. Both films, <I>Sister My Sister</I> and <I>Les Blessures assassines</I> are well crafted, pensive, captivating dramas. <div style="width:120px;font-size:10px;text-align:center;"></div><a href="http://www.flixster.com/videos?videoId=11059062"><img src="http://i4.ytimg.com/vi/OWqj4q7h5tE/default.jpg" border="0" /></a><div style="font-size:10px;width:120px;text-align:center;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com">Alternate trailer.</a> - <I>Les Blessures assassines</I> (2000) </div> <div style="width:120px;font-size:10px;text-align:center;"></div><a href="http://www.flixster.com/videos?videoId=11021422"><img src="http://i2.ytimg.com/vi/5cIcsV2gJvI/default.jpg" border="0" /></a><div style="font-size:10px;width:120px;text-align:center;"><a href="http://www.flixster.com"><I>Sister My Sister</I></a> </div>
    Pamela D Super Reviewer
  • Feb 18, 2005
    [font=Century Gothic][color=gray]Whenver I'm reviewing a movie, I always make a conscious decision to give away as little as possible while at the same time summarizing the themes of the movie and most importantly telling you whether or not I liked it. "Murderous Maids" does indeed concern 1) maids & 2) murder. The only mystery to viewers unfamiliar with the real life crime is under what circumstances the crime will be committed.[/color][/font] [color=#808080]"Murderous Maids" starts out with a flashback to a less than idyllic childhood as the Papin sisters are being sent to be raised in a convent.(Much is intimated about the disfunctional Papin family structure but very little is explicitly stated.) Emilia escapes the familial cycle by becoming a nun. Christine(Sylvie Testud) soon follows her mother into domestic service as a maid, even though she does have a problem with holding down a job for very long. Her little sister, Lea(Julie-Marie Parmentier), soon follows and joins Christine on a couple of jobs. Christine rebels against the notion of ever being married. She has always felt that she has had to look out for her younger sister but now the relationship becomes unhealthy when Christine does not only seek to form any outside friendships but also to prevent her sister from doing so, also. And then it gets disturbing...[/color] [color=#808080]I did like "Murderous Maids", especially with Sylvie Testud anchoring the movie with a great performance as someone constantly on the verge of losing her sanity.(Her similarily great performance in "Fear and Trembling" took some of the same emotions and moved them in a comic direction.) I thought the family history could have been detailed better but the movie succeeds by focusing on the relationship of the two sisters and does not seek to sensationalize or romanticze any of it. I am slightly disappointed that the movie missed a chance at being more of a political statement than it occasionally hinted at.[/color]
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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