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Two cousins of differing personalities come to live together in Paris.
For more about Les Cousins and the Les Cousins Blu-ray release, see Les Cousins Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 26, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Claude Chabrol
Starring: Gérard Blain, Jean-Claude Brialy, Juliette Mayniel, Guy Decomble, Michèle Méritz, Stéphane Audran
» See full cast & crew
Les Cousins Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 26, 2011
Winner of the prestigious Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, Claude Chabrol's "Les cousins" a.k.a. "The Cousins" (1959) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer and an audio commentary by Adrian Martin. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by Terrence Rafferty and a collection of excerpts from Jean-Claude Brialy's memoir "J'ai oublie de vous dire...". In French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Charles (Gerard Blain, Le beau Serge, La bonne soupe), a naïve but ambitious young man, arrives in Paris to study and live with his bohemian cousin Paul (Jean-Claude Brialy, The Phantom of Liberty, A Nudez de Alexandra). He has promised his mother that he will stay out of trouble and do whatever it takes to get a degree.
Paul immediately takes his cousin on a trip around the city. Eventually the two end up at Paul's favorite club, full of young and spoiled people looking for excitement. There Charles falls under the spell of Florence (Juliette Mayniel, Les yeux sans visage, Bluebeard), a flirty beauty who immediately realizes that he isn't like Paul. But before he could ask for her number, she leaves.
Soon after, Charles and Florence meet again, in Paul's apartment, during a wild party that nearly turns into an orgy. The two talk and kiss. Before the party is over, Charles is convinced that Florence is the girl he should spend the rest of his life with. They arrange to see each other again.
On the following day, Charles reveals to his sober cousin that he has fallen in love with Florence. Then, feeling inspired, he runs to a nearby bookshop to buy a few of Balzac's best novels. The owner (Guy Decomble, The 400 Blows, Bob le flambeur), who immediately recognizes that Charles is a fresh import from the countryside and in love, gives him a couple of books for free.
Meanwhile, Paul decides to prevent what he believes will be a tragic relationship because his cousin does not understand that Parisian girls like to play games with men like him. He also understands that there is little Charles could offer to a girl like Florence, who is used to live the easy life.
Claude Chabrol's second feature film offers a reversed scenario of his first film, Le beau Serge. This time around the main protagonist is a stranger in a big city where people live their lives in a way that at first confuses him and later on profoundly frustrates him. (In Le beau Serge, after years of living in Paris the main protagonist travels to the countryside and discovers that his best friend has become an alcoholic).
Les cousins is essentially what the French refer to as comedie dramatique, a film that has a light, mostly casual tone but houses serious overtones. Some of the very best comedie dramatique films also tend to be notably sarcastic, occasionally even provocative.
Les cousins is neither sarcastic nor provocative, but it isn't entirely apolitical film either. For a short period of time Charles' struggles to adapt are rather entertaining, but then the film takes a very unusual turn. The series of events that lead to it feature interesting observations about morality, success, friendship and love.
The strength of the film, however, lies in the characterization. Halfway through, masks begin to fall and the main protagonists reveal identities that immediately change the viewer's perception about them. After that it is difficult to like any of them. Interestingly enough, even their most controversial moves are justified with valid "reasons" - not necessarily forgivable but certainly understandable, though also regrettable and clearly avoidable.
Note: In 1959, Les cousins won the prestigious Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Les Cousins Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Claude Chabrol's Les cousins arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using Revival, Flame, and Smoke, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine colorist: Bruno Patin/Eclair, Paris."
Again, I don't currently have a copy of Les cousins on SDVD in my library to comment on how it compares to previous releases. However, I think it is fair to assume that the film has never looked this good before. As it was the case with Le beau Serge, Gaumont's restoration efforts are very impressive, and Criterion's presentation of Les cousins will more than likely be the definitive presentation of the film for many years to come.
Detail is exceptionally strong, and extreme close-ups and panoramic shots look simply beautiful (see screencaptures #4 and 5). Clarity and contrast levels are also pleasingly consistent - though I suspect that brigtness levels have been toned down a bit and contrast levels slightly boosted. Well resolved grain is always present and easy to see, giving the film a lovely organic look. There are no traces of overzealous sharpening. There are no stability issues to report in this review either. Finally, a thorough cleanup has been performed and damage marks and debris removed. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Les Cousins Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
I cannot possibly imagine the audio sounding any better. Considering the type of limitations one should expect to be present, the loseless track's dynamic amplitude is actually surprisingly good. The Mozart and Wagner extracts, for instance, are crisp and free of distortions, while the high-frequencies during the big party in Paul's apartment are not overdone. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and easy to follow.
Les Cousins Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Les Cousins Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Claude Chabrol's Les cousins is a beautiful and at times hilarious but also notably cruel film that effectively questions not so outdated notions about success, friendship and love. Recently restored, the film looks simply beautiful on Blu-ray. Let's hope that eventually Les bonnes femmes, Les biches, Les innocents aux mains sales, and La femme infidèle will receive equally impressive Blu-ray releases. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Les Cousins Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion's September Line-Up: Altman, Chabrol, Hallström, Assaya... - June 15, 2011
The Criterion Collection has unveiled their Blu-ray line-up for September 2011. Announced titles include Robert Altman's 3 Women, Olivier Assayas'Carlos, Lasse Hallstrom's My Life as a Dog, Claude Chabrol's Les Cousins and Le Beau Serge and the 1920 silent classic ...
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