Cousin Jules Screen 14 articles

Cousin Jules

1972

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  • Melancholy ending, confirming your worst fears about why the wife disappears mid-film, casts the entire film, retroactively, as a drama about marriage and loss along with its anthropological elements. A major rediscovery.

  • Benicheti’s observations don’t offer much depth or insight—what happened there during the war? How do they make their money? What’s in that newspaper that Jules reads at lunch? The movie is resolutely non-analytical, but it may leave a viewer hyper-alert to his own routine gestures and sounds.

  • Long takes let viewers luxuriate in a fetishistic attention to country-life detail; the fact that this spiffed-up version lends a visual hyperreality to every greased gear and green blade of grass only heightens the hypnotic pull.

  • It's a bit reductive in terms of a personal portrait, but this is a film that's not concerned with telling the story of a man, instead making him a representative symbol of a mostly bygone way of life, a reminder of both the fleeting nature of individual experience and the steady patterns of a broader human existence.

  • It’s readily apparent why “Cousin Jules” never found a distributor, but it’s also obvious that this is a uniquely rewarding movie... It only seems plotless. Momentous things happen, one of them tele-graphed in a single heartbreaking shot. The sense of time and place is so intense that Jules’ way of life seems to be disappearing even as we watch him.

  • Cousin Jules, recently restored and only now receiving its first commercial release, itself feels admirably workmanlike in its approach, its observations long-haul, providing startling evidence of the years’ toll... Jules’s workshop may no longer stand today, but thankfully this remarkable document, at once becalming and bleak, does.

  • Benicheti’s images have a plainspoken beauty, but it’s hard to make a film that features no less than three scenes of vegetables being prepared for the table sound interesting. Yet Cousin Jules is quite fascinating and manages to make such chores more compelling to watch than they probably were for Jules and Felicie to perform.

  • The framed monotony of this dailiness show is transfixing... “Cousin Jules” not only evokes André Bazin in its use of duration and pure recording but another mid-20th-century French philosopher, Gaston Bachelard, in documenting the lived experience of domestic space and the “poetics of space.”

  • Benicheti's commitment to his formalism, to the unstinting excavation of a time and place in the hopes of creating overwhelming verisimilitude, is practically monk-like in its dedication (and indeed, another film descendant is Philip Gröning's Into Great Silence); through his commitment, we begin to experience the film as a kind of mindfulness in action, the viewing of the picture as an immersion in a meditative state.

  • In Cousin Jules, [Benicheti] creates a vibrant and minutely detailed soundscape that is at times orchestral in its use of ambient noise and the precisely textured clatter of Jules’s metalworking... It is also the rare documentary that, although observational almost in the mode of a scientist in the field, unfolds in fluidly choreographed tracking shots that function as rhymes to or intensifications of the actions on screen.

  • ...Comprising exquisitely composed, almost entirely static shots of fairly long duration, Cousin Jules gives one time to mull over such questions as well as to contemplate what is inside the frame and what is left unseen and unspoken. Which is to say that Benicheti, in collaboration with his cinematographer Pierre William Glenn... produced images at once fragile and monumental—the visually expressive correlative of his taciturn, hardworking subjects and the Burgundy countryside where they lived.

  • Seen now in extreme retrospect, Cousin Jules appears a revelatory missing link between the essayistic observational documentaries of Frederick Wiseman and Raymond Depardon and the vibrant tradition of sensory ethnography pioneered by Robert Gardner and extended in new ways by Lucien Castaing-Taylor.

  • Despite such allusions to somatic permanence, much of Cousin Jules's power lies in its structuring, which is both bisected and branched by Felice's off-screen death. However unfortunate this event, it ultimately proved crucial to the film's visual chronology and thematic fortification.

  • Choreographed long takes and a range of novel technical devices—including a precursor to Dolby sound that Benicheti created himself—make Jules's experience seem otherworldly. Focusing on archaic farming rituals to the exclusion of nearly everything else, the film has virtually no dialogue, but each sight and sound is monumental, communicating an entire way of life.

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