Title: Cousin Cousine
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Director: Jean-Charles Tacchella
Music: Gérard Anfosso
Retrospectively speaking, this French comedy’s dark horse success mainly can be attributed to the fact that it opportunely corresponds with the sex liberation trend in the 1970s, not just a commercial hit in its homeland, it also has conquered the audience in North America, entering Oscar’s BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM race, and most absurdly, it even procures two other nominations BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY, and BEST LEADING ACTRESS for Barrault. Why it is absurd? Simply because it is one of those out-of-the-blue nominations in Oscar’s history which don’t make any sense to even be encompassed as the fillers among the year’s best.
COUSIN COUSINE is about two cousins by marriage, Marthe (Barrault) and Ludovic (Laloux), she is married to a philandering Pascal (Marchand) and they have a teenage son, whereas he is in his second marriage with Karine (Pisier) and has a teenage girl from his first marriage. The film blithely opens with the wedding of Marthe’s mother Biju (Garcin), the new husband is Ludovic’s uncle, Marthe and Ludovic meet for the first time and they gradually grow a platonic affinity while Pascal and Karine enjoy a brief fling on which they turn a blind eye.
Labelled as a Gallo farce with its radical anti-monotony feel-goodism, the film is not parsimonious to ridicule all its supporting characters as a mean to attest that the click between two soulmates cannot be bridled by common shackle of marriage or morality, and quite obviously, the platonic slogan cannot sustain too long in a French romance. Still, Director and co-writer Jean-Charles Tacchella steadily presents their inappropriate relationship through the prism of family gatherings, a wedding first, a funeral follows, then another wedding and the film ends on Christmas eve, each time Marthe and Ludovic become more and more intimate, meanwhile, Pascal and Karine’s senses of jealousy and exasperation become more and more comical to behold.
Granted, one cannot speak ill of the nonchalant attitude and freewheeling spontaneity of the film’s core romance, Barrault and Lanoux register convincing chemistry through the journey, sauntering with tacit rapport, sharing a knowing smile, revelling in their first-time copulation in a hotel, or bathing together; while facing their respective nuclear families, they never sink to awkward evasions or flagrant lies to their spouses or stage a scene to befit their own benefit.
Guy Marchand occasions most of the buffoonery as a deplorable womaniser cannot overcome the blatant adultery of his wife, the only threatening moment comes when he fiddles with a pistol, but indeed he is really not that gruesome kind, he is vengeful truly, but not homicidal. Marie-France Pisier comes off appreciably as a jittery trophy wife who is much interested in her sleep therapy than her husband, openly admits she doesn’t mind Ludovic’s affair, but to really assimilate the facts and convey a healing process, it is another pair of shoes for her.
Overall, this light-hearted relationship comedy is a run-of-the-mill novelty from 70s, actually it has spawned a Hollywood remake COUSINS (1989) by the very prosaic Joel Schumacher, and as expected, the rehash is a much more forgettable offering. However Tacchella’s career has already hit its crest in his second feature and all his luck runs off since then, he retires permanently in 1999.