Les cousins [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
- Audio Codec: French LPCM Mono (48kHz/24-bit)
- Subtitles: English
- Region: A (Region-Locked)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Run Time: 109 Mins.
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: Criterion Collection
- Blu-ray Release Date: September 20, 2011
- List Price: $39.95
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the 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.
‘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.‘
While the transfer of Les cousins from the Criterion Collection, appearing here in an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 encodement at its original 1.33:1 framing, looks quite film-like, that ol’ Criterion magic doesn’t quite sparkle with the same splendor here like it does on Les cousin‘s counterpart Le beau Serge. The image is just a bit soft and inconsistent. Still, for a film from 1959, we’re really just picking nits. It looks rather clean and organic without anything that looks electronic hampering the presentation. Blacks are pretty deep and foreground detail remains quite sharp as well.
‘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.‘
The LPCM monaural soundtrack sounds a bit scratchy, especially during louder passages, but it is still a rather good presentation with good depth for a monaural mix from 1959.
The supplements are very thin and disappointing here for a Criterion Collection release. On disc, there is only the original theatrical trailer (1.33:1; 1080p/24)) and a typically strong audio commentary featuring Adrian Martin, co-editor of Movie Mutations: The Changing Voice of World Cinephilia.
The booklet features the essay, “The Nature of the Beast” by Terrence Rafferty, Terrence Rafferty, author of The Thing Happens: Ten Years of Writing About the Movies and a frequent contributor to The New York Times and DGA Quarterly, plus a special treat, excerpts from Jean-Claude Brialy’s memoirs, J’ai oublié de vous dire… in which he writes of his friend and acting partner in both le beau Serge and Les cousins, Gérard Blain.
The Definitive Word
Criterion Collection just keeps rolling out cinematic gems with an unbelievably high quality, making one wonder why other studios can’t do the same with such consistency. Le cousins, released alongside the counterpart Le beau Serge, is another fine example of that and another Blu-ray that needs to be on every cinephile’s shelf.
Additional Screen Captures