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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Les Cousins [Blu-ray]


(, 1959)


Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray LEFT vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT




Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Gaumont

Video: Criterion Collection - Spine # 581 / Masters of Cinema Spine # 59



Region: 'A'-locked / Region 'B'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:49:46.997 / 1:49:19.958

Disc Size: 34,509,436,196 bytes / 48,910,826,265 bytes

Feature Size: 32,380,606,464 bytes / 31,543,185,408 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps / 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 20 / 8

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: September 20th, 2011 / April 8th, 2013


Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio French 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

LPCM Audio French 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit


Subtitles (both):

English (SDH), none



• Audio commentary featuring film scholar Adrian Martin
• Theatrical trailer
• Liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty and excerpts from actor Jean-Claude Brialy’s memoir, about costar Gérard Blain

• Original theatrical trailer (4:06)
• Chabrol Launches The Wave: Part 2 (46:42)
• L’Homme qui vendit la Tour Eiffel [The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower], Chabrol’s 1964 short film (21:57)
• 36-PAGE BOOKLET with vintage writing by Jean-Luc Godard and Jean Domarchi; excerpts from an interview with co-writer Paul Gégauff by André S. Labarthe and Jean Eustache; a testimonial to actress Françoise Vatel by Luc Moullet; La Fontaine’s source poem; and rare imagery



Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM


Description: 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.


Made barely a year after Claude Chabrol’s debut Le Beau Serge Les Cousins featured the earlier film’s same starring pair of Jean-Claude Brialy and Gérard Blain, here reversing the good-guy/bad-guy roles of the previous picture. The result is a simmering, venomous study in human temperament that not only won the Golden Bear at the 1959 Berlin Film Festival, but also drew audiences in droves, and effectively launched Chabrol’s incredible fifty-year-long career.

In Les Cousins, Blain’s character journeys from the country to Paris to crash at the luxurious flat of his worldly and decadent cousin, portrayed by Brialy, during the study period for an upcoming law exam which both have set out to undertake. It becomes clear soon enough that only one of the cousins is terribly committed to his work; as sexual promises and alcohol intervene, the set-up becomes untenable for the provincial, — and a tragic slide ensues.

A gripping and urbane examination of city and country, ambition and ease, Les Cousins continues to captivate and shock audiences with its brilliant scenario, the performances of Brialy and Blain, and the assuredness of Chabrol’s precocious directorial hand. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Claude Chabrol’s breakthrough film in a beautiful new Gaumont restoration on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time in the UK.



The Film:

The town mouse and his country cousin. Or, the story of two students, one who was very, very good, and one who was very, very bad; but the bad one passed his exams, got the girl (when he wanted her), and survived to live profitably ever after. 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. The centrepiece, as so often in the early days of the nouvelle vague, is an orgiastic party climaxed, as the guest sleeps it off next morning, by a sublimely cruel and characteristic 'joke' by the bad cousin (Brialy) when he performs an eerie Wagnerian charade with candelabra and Gestapo cap to wake a Jewish student into nightmare.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Charles (Gerard Blain) comes to live with his cousin Paul (Jean-Claude Brialy), falls in love with a fellow student (Juliette Mayniel), but sees her become Paul's mistress in Claude Chabrol's 1958 study of the ill effects of urban sophistication on an uncorrupted country youth. 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.

Excerpt from The Chicago Reader located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Les Cousins appears surprisingly strong on Blu-ray from Criterion.  The 1080P image has excellent textured grain visible and is very pleasing with Criterion's, hallmark, deft contrast. This is dual-layered with a high bitrate. Visually, this is impeccably clean from an obvious strong source (Gaumont, I believe) and actually was released in Australia in an English-friendly DVD edition. The, over 50-year old, piece of important cinema shows some healthy detail and the only blackmark being some minor noise in the darkest of scenes. Otherwise this is typically adept transfer providing a near-flawless film-like presentation.

I can't see enough of a difference to match all the Criterion captures. The new Masters of Cinema 1080P has the exact same bitrate. It may be marginally brighter, but looks almost exactly the same to me. Excellent.




Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



More Blu-ray Captures












Audio :

Criterion are again faithful with a mono track rendered in a linear PCM in original French at 1152 kbps. There is the perception of some depth but the film is essentially dialogue-driven without much to spark anything dynamic in the soundstage via uncompressed. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked like all Criterions to date.

Like the image quality - I can discern very little, if any significant, differences. Both offer a clean, lossless linear PCM mono track. The subtitle translation is slightly different (font, size etc.) - see sample above - and the Masters of Cinema disc is region 'B'-locked.


Extras :

Included is an audio commentary featuring film scholar Adrian Martin who meanders a bit before settling into a more specific discussion covering Rohmer, Truffaut, Godard - Chabrol's new wave colleagues including tidbits about Les Cousins. Martin discusses the ups and downs of Chabrol's career - references to Hitchcock and Strangers on a Train and some of the similarities - even Fritz Lang is broached. It's, predictably, good and I enjoyed and learned a lot from it. Aside from that is a HD theatrical trailer and a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty and excerpts from actor Jean-Claude Brialy’s memoir, about costar Gérard Blain.


Eric Cotenas has covered the MoC extras: “Chabrol Launches the Wave: Part II” continues the narrative from the first part on LE BEAU SERGE. Chabrol could find no distributor for the film (which was financed by his wife’s inheritance), but a subsidy would cover the costs if it was reinvested in a new production; so Chabrol began production on LES COUSINS right away. A bulk of the forty-six minute featurette is taken up by the discussion of screenwriting collaborator Paul Gegauff (who the documentary likens through the use of clips to Brialy’s character in the feature). Many of the same interviewees from the first featurette are on hand here and tell stories of Gegauff’s provocative nature (the scene of Brialy wearing the SS hat at the party in the film was inspired by Gegauff dressing up as an SS officer at a notorious party called “Le Bal du Scandale” in which it seems the guests were supposed to be provocative). Chabrol’s father reportedly described Gegauff as Chabrol’s evil twin while his first wife (interviewed here) describes him as a harmful influence. Chabrol himself (in recent archival footage) says that Gegauff didn’t brainwash him so much as “polish” his brain. Discussion moves on to LES COUSINS, which some of the speakers feel represented quite a leap in style from LE BEAU SERGE. The “New Wave” aspect of the featurette is framed in the way the shooting differed from not only LE BEAU SERGE but other New Wave films (Chabrol found it was cheaper to shoot in studio – even a tiny one – than try to find and rent an apartment that met the requirements of the story) as well as the film’s critical reception. Also discussed in contrast to the perception of New Wave “technique” is Chabrol’s Lang-influenced camera style (with some good use of clips to illustrate this in the film). Chabrol (in footage in which the editor resorts constantly to jump cuts either to form supporting statements or just to speed up the pace) discusses not liking LES COUSINS and LES BICHES because he felt that they were too fashionable; however, he quips that he grew to like them more when they went from being fashionable films to “historic films”. Presumably Gaumont has more Chabrol films planned for release since the two documentaries hold back certain details (Gegauff’s death and Chabrol’s later marriage to Stephane Audran).

"L'homme qui vendit la tour Eiffel" is Chabrol’s contribution to the 1964 French/Japanese/Dutch/Italian anthology LES PLUS BELLES ESCROQUERIES DU MONDE (featuring other contributions by Godard, Polanski, Ugo Gregoretti, and Hiromichi Horikawa) in which a group of Parisians run a scam to sell an eccentric German the Eiffel Tower. Catherine Deneuve is prominently credited, but she really has only a small role. Like “L’Avarice” on the disc of LE BEAU SERGE, this shorter work is photographed in Franscope (to match the shooting gauge of the other episodes) whereas much of Chabrol’s feature work is either in 1.66:1 or 1.85:1. The full opening and closing credits for the feature are included with the episode (whereas the film from which “L’Avarice” came from appeared to give each episode their own self-contained credits sequences). The included trailer for LES COUSINS appears to have also been the recipient of an HD remaster.

The Blu-ray and DVD sets also come with a thirty-one page booklet including two brief essays on the film by Godard in which he compares the film to an episode of Balzac’s lengthy COMEDIE HUMAINE as well as a retelling of the La Fontaine’s version of the fable of the town rat and his country cousin (better known to American children in variations inspired by the Aesop version featuring mice). Godard also feels that it “will be the perfect Chabrol” film because it is the exact opposite of LE BEAU SERGE, and also praises the film’s camerawork. Jean Domarchi’s “Paul, or: The Ambiguities” would seem to draw comparison of the film and one of its protagonists with Melville; however, it is one of the earliest essays to compare Chabrol to Hitchcock in discussing the trio of main characters in relation to the duality of character in the latter’s work. In an interview with Gegauff (c. 1967-1968), the writer speaks briefly of LES COUSINS and Chabrol, and not too kindly; however, he would collaborate with the director several more times after this interview. Also included is a piece by Luc Moullet from 2005 on the death of actress Francoise Vatel (who played Martine in the film). The booklet closes with La Fontaine’s version of “The Town Rat and the Country Rat” (in both French and English) as well as the usual “Masters of Cinema” viewing notes and disc production credits.

- Eric Cotenas


Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray LEFT vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT



I, appropriately, watched Le Beau Serge first and followed with Chabrol's second feature, Les Cousins - but decided to review this one first as I felt more of a leaning to the film. Les Cousins is a shade more polished but these two features work well as juxtaposing each other in many ways. Being a big fan of  the director I was always keen to add these initial efforts to my long list of his other films (I think we've reviewed more Chabrol films than any other director on DVDBeaver). I can't imagine too many world cinema fans wanting to miss-out on this and the Criterion Blu-ray package is a fabulous way to enjoy and own it.

So the only difference is in the extras - Criterion offer the Martin commentary and Masters of Cinema included ove4r an hour of video supplements (Chabrol Launches The Wave: Part 2 (46:42) and the L’Homme qui vendit la Tour Eiffel [The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower], Chabrol’s 1964 short film). Another stellar package and only a strong desire for the commentary should sway you from the edition closest to your geographic region code!  

Gary Tooze

August 25th, 2011

Gary Tooze (and Eric Cotenas)

March 26th, 2013




About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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