Murderous Maids

1930s France was shocked by one of the most scandalous stories to hit in the pre-war years: two sisters, Christine and Lea Papin, working as chambermaids, suddenly turned on two of their employers and murdered them brutally – tearing out their eyeballs, slicing them up, and smearing the floor of the house with their blood. To add even more punch to the story, it was revealed that Christine and Lea were in an incestuous lesbian relationship.

The story was such a ripper that it inspired numerous film and stage adaptations, from Jean Genet's The Maids to Claude Chabrol's La Ceremonie to the English film Sister, My Sister. Murderous Maids (a terrible English translation of the more evocative French title Les Blessures Assassines) purports to tell the real story of the Papin sisters, from birth to incarceration, and does so coldly, unblinkingly.

It's a disturbing film, a little like a low-key Heavenly Creatures, and it provides a plausible background to the sisters' astonishing crime (which was mostly committed by Christine, the crazier of the two), but the delivery is so dry that it will leave you as cold as the Papin's two dead employers.

Sylvie Testud is terrific as the short-tempered Christine, however, as is Julie-Marie Parmentier, who I personally found incredibly appealing, as the naive Lea.