Sunday, 9 November 2014

Episode Thirty One - Le Beau Serge and Les Cousins

Its Tom and David Blakeslee today with a double bill of Claude Charbol's Le Beau Serge and Les Cousins.

From Masters of Cinema:

'Gérard Blain and Jean-Claude Brialy star in the first of their collaborations with the great Claude Chabrol. The director’s masterful feature debut — ironic, funny, unsparing — is a revelation: another of that rare breed of film where the dusty formula might be used in full sincerity: Le Beau Serge marks the beginning of “the Chabrol touch.”

In this first feature film of the French New Wave, one year before Truffaut’s The Four Hundred Blows, the dandyish François (Brialy, of Godard’s A Woman Is a Woman, Rohmer’s Claire’s Knee, and countless other cornerstones of 20th-century French cinema) takes a holiday from the city to his home village of Sardent, where he reconnects with his old chum Serge (Blain), now a besotted and hopeless alcoholic, and sly duplicitous carnal Marie (Bernadette Lafont). A grave triangle forms, and a tragic slide ensues.

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.'