In Les cousins, Claude Chabrol crafts a sly moral fable about a provincial boy who comes to live with his sophisticated bohemian cousin in Paris. Through these seeming opposites, Chabrol conjures a darkly comic character study that questions notions of good and evil, love and jealousy, and success in the modern world. A mirror image of Le beau Serge, Chabrol’s debut, Les cousins recasts that film’s stars, Jean-Claude Brialy and Gérard Blain, in startlingly reversed roles. This dagger-sharp drama won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and was an important early entry in the French New Wave.
Claude Chabrol’s second film, Les cousins, has been released on Blu-ray by Criterion alongside his first film, Le beau Serge, in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc. The high-definition transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.
The image we get here is strong and on the same level as Criterion’s Le beau Serge. The image is stunning in just how sharp it is with fine details and textures popping off of the screen. Film grain is present and looks natural, contrast looks to be accurate and has some deep blacks and clean whites, and other than some minor shimmering in some of the finer patterns I didn’t detect any artifacts.
There’s a few minor blemishes remaining in the print but overall it’s clean. In all another striking, nearly pristine black and white presentation from Criterion.
Similar to Le beau Serge, Les cousins presents another adequate if unspectacular linear PCM mono track. It’s clear and clean, and presents no noise or distortion, but again it’s fairly flat and lacks fidelity.
Les cousins gets the shaft in comparison to Le beau Serge in the way of supplements but at least its one supplement is a good one.
Adrian Martin provides a fairly engaging and informative audio commentary, which I believe has been lifted from an Australian DVD edition of the film. It’s unfortunately not as good as the track he provided for Godard’s 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, one of my favourite tracks in recent memory, he still gives a wonderful analysis of the film and offers a great primer for Chabrol’s work. He talks about how the film (and to an extent Le beau Serge) fit into the nouvelle vague, with the two admittedly being quite a bit more straightforward and also talks extensively about Chabrol’s work as a whole (and it should be kept in mind this was recorded before Chabrol’s death in 2010), his influences, and even other details about the French New Wave. It doesn’t fully make up for the lack of anything else on the disc but it is an engaging and entertaining track and far better, or at least more interesting, than Guy Austin’s track found on Le beau Serge.
The disc then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer. The included booklet includes an essay on the film by Terrence Rafferty then a wonderful passage from Jean-Claude Brialy’s memoir where he talks about Gerard Blain.
In all I wish there was more but I enjoyed the commentary track and the booklet is an excellent (if short) read.
It’s a shame this one got the shaft in supplements but the commentary is good, if not great, and I enjoyed listening to it. The visual presentation is splendid and makes the edition worth picking up for those fond of the film or Chabrol’s work in general.