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Film / Les Cousins

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Les Cousins (The Cousins) is a 1959 French film directed by Claude Chabrol, starring Gérard Blain, Jean-Claude Brialy, Juliette Mayniel, and Stéphane Audran.

Charles (Blain) moves into his cousin's flat in Paris. His cousin, Paul (Brialy), is an eccentric and decadent dandy. Charles and Paul are both law students. Thanks to Paul, Charles meets Florence (Mayniel) and he falls in love with her.


Les Cousins provides examples of:

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: When he is drunk, Count Minerva shoots at a girl with a gun. Fortunately, it was not loaded.
  • All Work vs. All Play: Charles is studying all day, whereas Paul thinks only of partying. Paul passes his exam, whereas Charles fails it.
  • Bungled Suicide: Françoise's ex-boyfriend jumps out of the window because Françoise rejects him and flirts with other men. He breaks his legs, but he survives.
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  • The Casanova: Paul has many girlfriends. When Florence is falling in love with Charles, he seduces her and she becomes his girlfriend.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal one. Paul's gun is showed early in the film. After Count Minerva brandishes it during the party, Paul tells Charles that he also has bullets in a drawer. In the end, Charles plays the Russian roulette and shoots at a sleeping Paul, but the chamber is empty. Then, Paul jokingly shoots at Charles and accidentally kills him.
  • Clashing Cousins: Paul becomes Charles's romantic rival. Charles is also jealous of him because he passes his exam, whereas Charles failed it. Charles could kill him when he pays Russian roulette.
  • Country Cousin: Paul lives in Paris. Charles, his cousin, comes from the country and he moves into his flat.
  • Country Mouse: Charles comes from the country and he has to adjust to the decandent Parisian life.
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  • The Dandy: Paul is always well dressed. He sometimes wears eccentric clothes, like in the scene where he welcomes Charles in his flat. He is a hedonist.
  • Dies Wide Open: Charles in the end, after being shot down by Paul.
  • Downer Ending: Paul accidentally kills Charles.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: In the beginning, Paul drives Charles through the streets of Paris and many monuments are showed (the Luxor Obelisk, the Panthéon...).
  • Foreshadowing: The story of Françoise's ex-boyfriend who is Driven to Suicide because Françoise rejects him and flirts with other men foreshadows Charles's fate.
  • The Gentleman or the Scoundrel: Florence has to chose between Charles, a Nice Guy who truly loves her, and Paul, a womanizer who thinks only of partying.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: When Paul's ex-girlfriend tells him that she is pregnant, Paul advises her to have an abortion and he gives her money for it. This establishes Paul as a jerkass. The fact that the ex-girlfriend finally has an abortion shows that she is a slut.
  • Gratuitous German: Charles often speaks in German, just for fun.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: In the end, Paul, who assumes that his gun is empty, jokingly shoots at Charles and accidentally kills him.
  • Left the Background Music On: In the final scene, where Paul shoots down Charles, the background music (by Richard Wagner) is finally revealed to be the music of a disc played by Paul's turntable.
  • Love at First Sight: Charles falls for Florence as soon as he sees her for the first time.
  • Momma's Boy: Charles says that his mother pampered him. He cares for her and writes many letters to her. When he fails his exam, he is worried because he will disappoint his mother.
  • Really Gets Around: Paul's female friends. Françoise and Florence in particular. When Florence confesses that she tries to love Charles, Clovis tells her that she had sex with most people in the neighbourhood. She does not object.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The hard-working and collected Charles and his cousin Paul, a flamboyant dandy who only obeys his own passions.
  • Russian Roulette: Charles places one bullet in Paul's gun, he spins the cylinder and he shoots at Paul's head. There is just a click.
  • Sexy Man, Instant Harem: Paul is often surrounded with many girls, for example in the scene where he goes out of the university after passing his exam.
  • Shout-Out: The bookseller mentions that the students only read detective novels. He thinks they should rather read Fyodor Dostoevsky. Charles wants to buy a book by Honoré de Balzac. The bookseller gives him Lost Illusions.
  • Wild Teen Party: The parties organized by Paul in his father's flat get out of hand. Lots of alcohol is consumed. At some point, a drunken guy shoots at a girl with a gun. Fortunately, it was not loaded.

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