Cousin Cousine

Starring: Marie-Christine Barrault, Victor Lanoux and Marie-France Pisier
Arrow Films
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 12
Available 28 May 2007

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 serious...

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.

Charles Packer

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