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.