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An ode to rural France and the simple joys of life, Dominique Benicheti's glorious masterpiece COUSIN JULES captures the daily routine and rituals of Jules, a blacksmith, living with his ... See full summary
An ode to rural France and the simple joys of life, Dominique Benicheti's glorious masterpiece COUSIN JULES captures the daily routine and rituals of Jules, a blacksmith, living with his wife, Felice, on a small farm in the French countryside.

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  • comment
    • Author: Nenayally
    A sort of 'directed documentary' this beautifully photographed, almost wordless film slowly shows the day to day life of a real aging couple (in their 70s for most of the 5 years the film took to shoot) living in rural France. He works as some kind of metal worker in his small barn, she runs their small farm and house. Their activities are never explained, we just watch.

    Yet the fact that there is artifice is acknowledged as well, in clever and telling ways. A couple of times one or the other of Jules or his wife Felicie look right into camera for a moment, and there's no attempt to hide the breaking of the 4th wall. One feels like the rare chit-chat there is between the two was awkwardly done for the cameras. There's a sudden freeze frame at a moment we later understand to be of significance, which jarringly reminds us we're watching a carefully composed and constructed film, not simply 'real life'.

    And film-maker Benichette's beautiful wide screen compositions look far more like the stunning work of a great fiction cinematographer than a documentarian catching life on the fly. (And, indeed, a supplemental piece on the blu-ray about the restoration of the film makes it clear that the gorgeous lighting was far from the 'natural' light it seems to be).

    So this odd, but often hypnotic film sat on the shelf for 40 years, overlooked by distributors, and in a wide screen/stereo format that was hard for art-houses of the day to deal with. And now it comes back to life, a one-of-a-kind meditation on age, time and an almost gone way of life. It didn't quite have the deep emotional impact - at least on first viewing -- I wish it had. But it's also one of those films I know will bounce around in my head, and that will lead me back to watching it again.
  • comment
    • Author: Gavigamand
    O.K., I get it. The movie was trying to recapture the simplicity of life of a peasant couple and contrast it implicitly with the hubbub and complexity of modern life, imparting a degree of dignity to their mundane activities. I guess it also portrayed the unquestioning nature of their existence, which found solace and meaning in everyday repetitive chores. However, the intent is one thing, and the result something totally different. I believe the director was confusing artistic reality with verisimilitude. The whole idea of this movie could've been imparted in 10-15 minutes, and nothing would've been lost.

    Also, it was quite obvious that both Jules and Felicie were occasionally self-conscious about being on camera, so this greatly diminishes the credibility of their natural responses and behavior.

    I can see how this can be a valuable historical record of how French peasants from Burgundy lived in the first half of the 20th century since very little had changed in their lives in the late 60's and early 70's. But, as a valuable work of art - not so much.
  • comment
    • Author: Miromice
    I saw this film about a year and half ago and, unlike nearly every other movie I have sat through, I find scenes vivid in my memory. Though it portrays nothing other than a couple's quotidian existence, I find Jules' blacksmithing, Felicie's meal preparation, his floor sweeping playing over mentally as intensely as the professor's dreams in Wild Strawberries (both as experienced by him in the film and recurrently in my brain since seeing that movie over 45 years ago). The fact that you become aware at times that there is a cameraman and director involved is not the least distracting. No one would likely be under the impression that it is anything other than a documentary. As much as it documents a life seemingly frozen in the past, its appeal is that is recorded now and is not a historical recreation.
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