- Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
- Audio Codec: French LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
- Subtitles: English
- Subtitles Color: White
- Region: B (Region-Locked)
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Digital Copies: N/A
- Run Time: 109 Mins.
- Studio: Eureka Entertainment/Masters of Cinema
- Blu-ray Release Date: April 8, 2013
- List Price: £20.42
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(The below TheaterByte screen captures are taken directly from the Blu-ray Discs and losslessly compressed in the PNG format. There should be no loss of picture quality with this format. All screen captures should be regarded only as an approximation of the full capabilities of the Blu-ray format.
The second of nouvelle vague pioneer Claude Chabrol’s feature films, Les cousins is an exact mirror image of his first feature, Le beau Serge. Written at the same time as the former but released a year later, the outwardly lighter yet infinitely more dire and delicately complex latter film would go on to be six times as successful at the box office as his first. Hitting the big screen shortly before Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, it would help define and vindicate a movement.
Where Le beau Serge focused on a big city man coming to visit a friend in a small country village and finding himself at once out of place, Les cousins focuses on a man from the countryside going to the big city to move in with his city-dwelling cousin and finding himself at once uncomfortable, out of place and awkward amongst the supposedly more open-minded bohemian crowd.
Chabrol brought back his leading men from Le beau Serge for Les cousins and switched their roles around as well. This time it was Gérard Blain (“Charles”) playing the visitor and Jean-Claude Brialy (“Paul”) in the role of the roguish, partier. Both cousins are enrolled in university attempting to obtain a law degree, and while the dutiful and studious Charles does his best to hit the books despite the constant partying and parade of friends and women, Paul hardly studies at all. This situation works fine for both of them as Charles does his best to fit in, until the femme fatale Florence (Juliette Mayniel) enters the picture. She’s been with Paul and all of his friends already, but the naïve Charles falls in love with her. Of course Paul and his dubious hanger-on friend Clovis (Claude Cerval) convince her to drop Charles in favor of Paul. This convinces Charles that all he has to do is study harder, get his degree and win her back, sure that the partying Paul will flunk out, but things don’t quite work out that way, and it leads to one of the most shocking twist endings in a film you’ll ever see.
Les cousins has a deceptive air of humor and farce from its opening scenes, but slowly darkens over the course of the film, turning into an almost indefinable blend of romance, film noir, and thriller. The way Chabrol uses the camera and lighting is already by this film more experimental than in his first, shaky motion and quick zooms during the party scenes capture the lubricated frenzy, while we also see more natural, realist styles such as in the first drive taken by Paul and Charles. This is a film that is enjoyable the first time through, but reveals more every time you watch it.
(Editor’s note: Portions of this review were previously published as our Les cousins [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review. All screen captures were taken from their respective releases.)
Compared to its previous release to Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection, Les cousins from the Masters of Cinema series looks quite similar. It still doesn’t look quite as good as Chabrol’s first film, Le beau Serge. This film is a bit softer, has contrast that is not quite as strong, and dark levels that tend to get just a little murky. This AVC/MPEG-4 1080p transfer from Masters of Cinema looks just a little softer than the Criterion Collection disc, but there is no clear advantage going either way. Both Blu-ray Discs have a goof film-like quality and little source damage that get in the way.
The audio for Les cousins, provided in a French 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit) track is and has always been sort of scratchy, especially when dialogue gets a bit loud. It’s not as boxy as one might expect for a film from 1959, but it still far from the best I’ve heard from the era.
Several essays of the period, including those from Jean-Luc Godard and Jean Domarchi, plus an interview with Les cousins co-writer Paul Gégauff are included along with some other writings. Eureka have also included the Jean de la Fontaine work Le rat de ville et le rat de champs, an inspiration for the film.
On disc extras:
- Chabrol Launches The Wave: Part 2 (1080p/24; 00:46:42)
- L’homme qui vendit la Tour Eiffel (2.35:1; 1080p/24; 00:21:57) – This short work was originally part of the 1964 omnibus film Les plus belles escroqueries du monde [The World’s Most Beautiful Frauds], featuring five segments in different cities by separate directors (including Jean-Luc Godard and Roman Polanski), Chabrol’s segment, L’homme qui vendit la Tour Eiffel [The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower], is presented here.
- Theatrical Trailer (1.37:1; 1080p/24)
The Definitive Word
Les cousins once again accompanies its early Chabrol counterpart Le beau Serge to Blu-ray Disc, this time from the UK’s Masters of Cinema series. Both films remain excellent examples of the nouvelle vague and should be in any serious cinephile’s library.
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