Marthe and Ludwic are distant cousins who meet at a family
gathering. Having both been married for some time Marthe,
with good reason, suspects her husband of having affairs and
Luwic finds his wife childlike and depressing. Finding common
ground in an irreverent look on life the two cousins start
a friendship, a friendship which develops into something more
Cousin Cousine (1975) is a comedy film directed by
Jean Charles Tacchella and written by Tacchella and Daniele
Thompson. The film was nominated for three Oscar's, a Golden
Globe and three Cesar awards. It won two awards for the director,
one for best foreign film and one for best supporting actress.
The film was remade as Cousins (1989), having exorcised
all the charm and most of the humour, by Joel Schumacher.
It starred Ted Danson and Isabella Rossellini. At which point
we shall avoid my usual diatribe about Hollywood taking perfectly
good films and making second class versions of them.
The acid test for any comedy film is whether it's funny or
not, and I'm happy to report that Cousin Cousine is
a very funny film. Odd thing is that the majority of the comedy
does not come from the central characters of Marthe (Marie-Christine
Barrault) and Ludwic (Victor Lanoux), but rather from their
respectively odd partners and the endless fighting and drunkenness
of their decidedly odd extended family.
The tone of the film is set right at the beginning with a
father warning his children to behave as they are attending
a solemn family gathering, only for the party to display relatives
dancing badly, getting drunk and showing their arses in public.
There is a great scene with Guy Marchant as Pascal, Marthe's
husband and the living embodiment of Glen Quagmire from Family
Guy, trying to break off his relationships with a dozen
or so women, where you're thinking, what another one? Where
does he find the time and energy?
Marie-France Pisier is also very effective as Ludwic's wife,
Karine, who is never so happy as when she is in sleep therapy
and only woken for two hours a day - her portrayal is a neurotic
masterpiece. The film succeeds in being able to combine the
sweetness of When Harry Met Sally (1989), with the
romantic purity of Sleepless in Seattle (1993) laced with
a generous helping of anarchic physical humour.
The central characters love affair is actually quite sweet
as is their belief that the romantic love that they share
has a purity worthy of pursuing. Of course, this idea is helped
by the fact that their respective spouses behave little better
than children. So the audience goes along with this idea as
theirs is an adult relationship with mutual support, understanding
and respect, everything that is missing from their marriages.
Sadly, the film has no extras. It is presented in 4:3 French
stereo with burnt in subtitles, which do a good job of conveying
much of the humour. The print is clean with only the minimum
of damage showing.
If you want to see a funny and touching film then avoid Cousins
and see it in all its original glory Cousin Cousine.