Claude Chabrol R. H. Turner - Essay

R. H. Turner

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In The Cousins] Chabrol presents a dispiriting picture of a group of Parisian law students who are deadly serious in their cocky rejection and reversal of the expectations that society has of them. Within the circle which provides them with social warmth they avidly and almost ritualistically seek a hedonistic satisfaction which constantly eludes them. To the bourgeois these young people (like our own beat generation) seem to be absolutely free and irresponsible, and this is an image that they cultivate. To Chabrol it is their lostness, their desperation, their huddling together like children, that are most evident. (p. 42)

Chabrol is strong in feeling for the rules of the game as played by these stranded young adults. Paul's friends pour their energies into devising ever new ways to demonstrate their freedom from the larger society which they have not yet entered. Paul himself is an artist in this respect. In Paris, of all places, what better way of showing contempt for tradition and social solidarity than the affectation of Germanisms? At a wild party in his apartment Paul plays the Siegfried music in hi-fi, dons a Nazi officer's cap, and stalks through the darkened rooms reciting German poetry. This is Chabrol at his best, and it is strange that he has been misunderstood precisely here. Bosley Crowther, writing his New York Times' review, could hardly be more wrong in his comment: "The concept of the youth of the...

(The entire section is 507 words.)