Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video
Ignore the badly translated title. Based on the notorious murders of an upper-class mother
and daughter in 1933 Le Mans, France, director Jean-Pierre Denis methodically offers
an explanation of what would lead two convent educated sisters, Christine and Léa Petain, to
commit the brutal murders.
At a clipped paced, Denis depicts the elder Christineís strict education, her abandonment
by one sister to the Church, and, following in her motherís footsteps, her life as a maid,
where she is nameless and taken for granted. After being fired for talking back to a
mistress, Christine lands a position in the Lancelin household. Needing a skilled
seamstress, the madame (Renauld) hires the younger Petain sister, Léa, per Christineís
recommendation. Alone in their claustrophobic room at the top of the stairs, the sisters are a
world unto themselves. But noticing the rumpled sheets on only one of the two twin beds,
Madame Lancelin becomes suspicious. With smooth transitions - a torrid sex scene
precedes a scene set during Mass where Christine prays for Godís blessing for herself and
her sister - the buildup to the gruesome killings is riveting. As Christine, Sylvie Testud, is nothing less
than ferocious (she won a César Award, the French Oscar, for her performance).
Even in her stillness, sheís compelling. Julie-Marie Parmentier more than holds her own as
her impressionable child-like sister. And the filmís view of the class system is much
more complex than the prosecutionís pat explanation offered at their trial.
Extras: The 1933 Vanity Fair article is the most interesting extra, noting that sapphic references were ignored during the trial, as well as that the real-life
Madame Lancelin never spoke to her maids, but communicated only by notes. KT
Extras: The 1933 Vanity Fair article is the most interesting extra, noting that sapphic references were ignored during the trial, as well as that the real-life Madame Lancelin never spoke to her maids, but communicated only by notes. KT