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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Cousin, Cousine

Cousin, Cousine directed by Jean Charles Tacchella was probably the first French movie I ever watched, at least in French with English subtitles. I was in my first year of college French at Indiana University and this movie was suggested by my teacher, a very enthusiastic grad student and mentor to all of his students. At that time the Midwest was my birthright and I had rarely traveled outside its familiar confines. I knew that I wanted to get away from where I had lived almost my entire life up until then, but I didn't know how to do it or know where to go. I was studying French mostly because it was a required part of an undergraduate degree. I suppose that I just saw it as another course, like economics or history. After watching this movie at an off-campus art house movie theater, I couldn't help but think that the French were very different from the people I knew. At that time, as far as I was concerned, “different” was the same as “good.” I immediately developed an overly-romantic view of France that I hold to this day. Cousin, Cousine also gave me an overly-romantic view of love that I have maintained to this day.

I just watched this movie again recently, a film that was made in 1975 yet holds up extremely well, both as a timeless work of art and as something capable of speaking directly to me. In some ways I think that I haven't changed a single bit over the course of what has been my adult life. I still think this movie is just about the sexiest thing ever put on film, a story about two people who become best friends before consciously and deliberately deciding to be lovers.

I don't even know where to begin as far as my praise for this beautiful film. I love everything about it, even the music remains wonderfully whimsical—a lot of movie scores from the 70s are woefully dated. Cousin, Cousine has soured me on a generation of American films that don't have the slightest clue about how to portray ordinary people. The central characters are a handsome couple but not movie star perfect. They haven't been air-brushed, surgically enhanced, and stair-mastered to within an inch of their lives. All of the characters in this movie have ordinary (if not dumb) jobs. Hollywood's idea of a normal person's job is an advertising executive, and forget about accurately portraying all of the other details of middle class life. I think it was this movie that started my prejudice for books and movies about ordinary people, people I can recognize from my own very ordinary life.

If you haven't seen Cousin, Cousine I think you should give it a look, if you can find it. It should only take about the first 15 minutes or so to turn you into a francophile.