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France 1959
Directed by
Claude Chabrol
112 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Cousins, Les

Chabrol’s second film plays like an classical French tragi-comedy à la Les Liaisons Dangereuses but set in the Left Bank world of 50s Parisian university bohemia. Charles (Gerard Blain), an earnest young man from the country, travels to Paris to study for a law degree. He shares a flat with his urbane cousin, Paul (Jean-Claude Brialy), a wealthy young dandy who lives the fast life. Charles falls in love with one of Paul’s acquaintances, a young woman called Florence (Juliette Mayniel) but finds himself hopelessly out of his depth with the sophisticated ways of this immoral set and seeks refuge in his studies.

Chabrol’s first film, Le Beau Serge, which also contrasted Brialy as a Parisian sophisticate (albeit a much more sympathetic and serious-minded one) with Blain as his bumpkin childhood friend impressed with its authenticity, but Les Cousins which reverses the country-city perspective is less convincing, creating a strangely affected, fin-de-siècle world in which jaded young men and women party to the strains of Mozart and Wagner, seemingly light years way from the youthful élan of contemporary Paris that Godard and Truffaut would stamp as characteristically Nouvelle Vague the following year with Breathless.

In depicting the shallow coldness of its decadent world Les Cousins lacks the empathy of the earlier film but its climax gives it a tragic poignancy that, at least in hindsight, invests it with considerable pathos.

DVD Extras: Audio commentary by Dr. Adrian Martin, Senior Research Fellow, Monash University.


Available from: Madman




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