(“The Abyss”)
Production: France, 1962
Director: Nico Papatakis
Category: True Crime
The strange case of the Papin Sisters remains one of the most sensational in French history. In 1933, these two maids suddenly and savagely turned on their employer, killing her and her daughter. It was an act of supreme carnage – eyes torn from sockets, faces pulped, genitals mutilated – and also an “acte-gratuite” of revolt that earned the Papins the eternal admiration of the Surrealist group. Papatakis’ film of the case was described by Jean Genet as a “tornado from start to finish” and by Jean-Paul Sartre as the “first tragedy” of cinema, but it was attacked by the critics for bringing French cinema into disrepute. Genet’s own play Les Bonnes (“The Maids”) was strongly influenced by the Papin case and posits the two girls as enacting incestuous, sado-masochistic scenarios; it was filmed in 1974 by Christopher Miles as The Maids, with Glenda Jackson and Susannah York in the leading roles. Other, more radical interpretations of the Genet text include Robert and Donald Kinney’s video-film The Maids, which focuses on the characters’ lesbian undertones (Genet’s original intention was for the two women to be played by men in drag), and Ildiko Szabo’s Maidsplay (1983), an experimental piece by Nicole Dreiske’s Facets Performance Ensemble which also incorporates transcripts from the original Papin murder trial.

Posted by Rictus-23

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