Tousled chic, ice and sulks - French actor Lea Seydoux does all these three things well. The Bond girl in the just released James Bond film, Spectre, is now also making her arthouse appearance in India with the IFFI film, Diary of a Chambermaid, based on 1900 Octave Mirbeau novel on moral decadence of the French gentry.
In Spectre, the Bond-girl tag has competing claims from an ageing Monica Belluci and a youthful Naomie ‘Moneypenny’ Harris, even though Seydoux is the official love interest. Director Sam Mendes’s brief to Seydoux to be ‘impactful’ is up for debate. In the film trailer, she asks Bond a sitter of a question, “Living in the shadows... is this what you really want?”, through half-open eyes. Bond responds in the manner it deserves: “I don’t think about it.”
Watch Spectre trailer here:
Seydoux has better lines, rather all the lines, in Benoit Jacquot’s Diary…, a film made twice before -- in 1946 by Jean Renoir, in which Charlie Chaplin’s third wife, Paulette Goddard, plays the maid Celestine; and then in 1964 by Luis Bunuel, in which legendary New Wave actor Jeanne Moreau has the lead role.
Trade journals have labelled Seydoux a cross between fellow-Frenchwoman Marion Cotillard and British supermodel Kate Moss. The seven-minute lesbian sex scene in the 2013 Cannes winner, Blue Is the Warmest Colour, has made Seydoux known worldwide, not only for her acting talent. India, never lukewarm to James Bond films, will now be tracking the new Bond girl for reasons more than one.
In Spectre, Seydoux plays Madeleine Swann, the daughter of an assassin. That’s fairly straight and the narrow. In Diary…, she plays Celestine with piled-up hair, coiled passion and class anger, announcing deadpan at the employment agency: “I’m bursting with good behaviour, believe me”, and then goes on to do the exact opposite by stealing the silver of her slave-driving mistress.
Watch the trailer of Diary of a Chambermaid here:
In a pre-release interview of the Bunuel film, Moreau had said of Celestine that she was a chambermaid who actually wanted a chambermaid of her own. In Renoir’s film, Celestine is seen distributing her gold among the poor townsfolk. The 2015 version seems to want Celestine to have her cake and eat it too. An accomplice to the house coachman, Joseph, in the silver-stealing, she declares, as she makes good her escape from her employer’s house, that she is Joseph’s woman and will follow him in crime as well. Then why, oh why, won’t she do the same for James Bond?