Les Cousins

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 15


Audience Score

User Ratings: 204
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Movie Info

Claude Chabrol provides a few new wrinkles to the old "city mouse/country mouse" fable in Les Cousins. Bucolic Gerald Blain heads to Paris, where he enters into a romantic rivalry with his urbane cousin Jean-Claude Brialy. Their mutual object of affections is Juliette Maynal. Despite Brialy's glib tongue and worldly approach, he is beaten-nay, ruined-by the supposedly ingenuous Blain. In this second of Chabrol's feature-length efforts, the director introduces the generic character names "Charles" and "Paul", the former representing bourgeois values, the latter the embodiment of modern decadence. In various guises, Charles and Paul would reappear in virtually every subsequent Chabrol-directed domestic drama.


Critic Reviews for Les Cousins

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (5)

  • The director tackles his great theme-the puncturing of bourgeois moralism, albeit at a price-with a joyful, quasi-Nietzschean derision.

    May 13, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Concise progression, fine technical aspects, and the look at innocence destroyed by the profane keeps it absorbing, despite the slightly pretentious treatment at times.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • A fine, richly detailed tableau of student life in Paris, and Chabrol's first statement (in his second film) of his sardonic view of life as a matter of the survival of the fittest.

    Jun 24, 2006

    Tom Milne

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • M. Chabrol has more skill with the camera than he has with the pen, and his picture is more credible to the eye than it is to the skeptical mind. But it is not the less overwhelming.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • This is Chabrol's second film, and its subtle development of character points toward the dense structures of his later films with their reluctance either to condemn or extol without reservation.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • Reversing the setting and characters of Le Beau Serge, Claude Chabrol discovers the acerbic stylization that he would for the rest of his career polish and sharpen

    Oct 24, 2014 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Les Cousins

  • Jul 31, 2017
    Chabrol creates a darkly ironic film that impresses with its stunning cinematography and mise-en-scène, excellent performances (especially Jean-Claude Brialy) and a depressing story about how it doesn't matter to be a good guy in a decadent society when good guys always lose.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 15, 2016
    This movie by French New Wave filmmaker Claude Chabrol has a pretty simple plot, but was enjoyable nonetheless. In a nutshell, Charles, an innocent and earnest young law student, moves to Paris from the provinces to live with Paul, his sophisticated, profligate cousin. He's immediately exposed to the party life, which is both wild (there is a lot of flirting and bottle smashing) and somewhat amusing (the young men are all in suits and ties, play Bridge in bars, and listen to Mozart and Wagner at parties). He falls for Florence, a woman who's been around, and while she wants to have a meaningful relationship, she's convinced by Paul and another friend that she'll find him boring. She ends up with Paul instead, and moves in with the two of them. Charles actually takes it quite well, sharing meals with them and doing his best to ignore them, for example, as they shower together. He gets a free book and great advice from a bookseller (study hard, and "Read Dostoyevsky - he addresses all your concerns!"), who was naturally my favorite character :). Exams loom, and while Charles tries to apply himself, Paul parties on. I won't spoil it any more than I already have. This was one of those old movies that was anything but boring. The New Wave movement had as its aim to make movies that were different in content and style, and this succeeds; it's quite edgy for its time, and Chabrol has some great shot sequences here. Seeing it really transported me to the Latin Quarter in 1959 Paris.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 13, 2014
    There seems to be some character parallelism in Chabrol's first films given the cast decisions he made. I'll use Le Beau Serge (1958), the director's debut, as a comparison in this case: - Gérard Blain, Serge, is now the urbane cousin Charles, who seems to cope with the lifestyle of a decadent society much better than his cousin, Paul. - Jean-Claude Brialy, François, is now Paul, the honest man moving to Paris seeking to study law and looking forward to having a healthier, stable relationship. - Juliette Mayniel, Yvonne, is Yvonne once again, maybe reflecting that the female condition has stayed the same in some women characters, but not all. The trouble ensues when Florence, the woman that makes Charles fall in love, is one of Paul's acquaintances. How will he react? Well, fuck, I'll be damned if he didn't fucking react!!!! Now, I do want to point out that Les Cousins is the darkest film I have seen not only in the entire French New Wave, but also during the entire decade, and that includes Rudolph Maté's D.O.A. (1950). Chabrol's new drama is often called a "somophore effort", but that barely scratches the surface. It is a no-holds-barred depiction of the decay of the bourgeois class in its drunkard banalities and superficial intellectualisms displayed in poetry, art, music and theater. Although it remains true that we see how two contrasting personalities of different backgrounds and ambitions react when they meet each other, it is also about how the absorbing tendencies of a new social class increasingly disinterested in moral is powerful enough to make join others regardless of their origins. This new class seems to be more influential over all people than the other way around. This is where Paul comes into play. To begin with, his performance is just fucking spectacular, completely out of this world. He is a dangerous iconoclast with a cultured mind but turned upside down, surrounding himself of people who share the same (or similar) of his idealized fundamentalisms. Sex, alcohol and power are in his mind, in his life and in his speech. Gérard Blain gives life to Paul with the enthusiasm (and screams) of the most renowned Japanese actors, providing a true feeling of anarchy. He outdoes everybody else. If the film's increasing disorder had been even more daring, with the delivery and execution matching the pessimistic darkness embracing it all, maybe I would have raised the rating by a full star. This is one sadistic show, scary as shit, which didn't push the envelope hard enough, even if this is the 50s we are still talking about. Still, the execution remains brilliant, even if one has to wait for it, featuring wonderful pieces of orchestrated anarchy and interesting moments during the party scenes (especially the first), including one candle-lit recital of an epic German poem by Paul, which gets interrupted, predating a very similar occurrence in Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960). HUGE SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF THE REVIEW UNTIL THE SCORE /100 - - - - - - - - - - Maybe I'm the only one, but this film was scary as hell. The film had no aim, but the message was consistently delivered. The whole anarchy had a point. I'm also terrified by the film's closure, which, even if I have not come to a resolution about its meaning yet, I know that it is depressing as shit: Paul gets away with everything!!! He conquers Florence with an extreme mental and physical macabre manipulation, and with the aid of Marc, the man living in Paul's Flat in an extremely bizarre, partially intellectualist, disturbingly abusive and quasi-homosexual relationship. The horrible parties being held in Paul's flat do hamper Charles' study for his law exam, which he fails. He unfairly fails the exam, loses his woman, is put against almost everybody, is uncapable of adapting to this decaying lifestyle, and fucking DIES! No matter how much negative influence or harm he received from Paul, the moment in which he decided to play with chance to determine Paul's final fate with a gun, it backfires against him! One single mistake costs the life of the "innocent" one! Charles is an object of a very sophisticated torture from beginning to end. I see this as a shockingly reflection of real life as these lifestyle tendencies have found their way into our lives, taking over everything, including the quality of the way we live. What a daring movie. Chabrol can be one asphyxiating bastard. - - - - - - - - - - 85/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 15, 2011
    Absorbing. Gerard Blain is subtle, yet mesmerizing.
    Stefanie C Super Reviewer

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