Upscale sleaze from France. Donít let this 1970 filmís refined
surface fool you, as itís just as trashy, amoral and exploitive as any
of the more skuzzy offerings of the grindhouse era--and thatís no small
LES COUSINES, based on the novel THE PERVERSE WOMENíS
NIGHT by Fletcher D. Benson, was a rare directorial credit by Louis
Soulanes (who it seems was far more prolific as a screenwriter and/or
cinematographer). The film is infamous in cult circles for the fact that
its U.S. release (titled FROM EAR TO EAR), courtesy of Cinemation
Industries, was heavily cut to appease the MPAA, yet still
received an X rating!
The twentyish Elisa lives in a vast country house with
her mother and cousin Lucile, a strapping blond with whom Elisa shares a
deeply perverse bond. Also living in the house is Elisaís
wheelchair-bound sister Josine, who due to a childhood trauma has become
catatonic. On those rare occasions when Elisa isnít canoodling with
Lucile, she likes to bang her hunky boyfriend and callously torture her
sister. Among other things, Elisa and Lucile slap Josephine, fondle her
breasts, strap a blaring radio to her wheelchair and wave an armless
doll in her face, which for some reason terrifies her.
One weekend Elisa and Josineís mother leaves town on a
business trip. Left to their own devices, Lucile and Elisa throw a party
that quickly gets out of hand. During the melee Josine is removed from
her wheelchair and force-fed cigarette butts by a particularly randy
male guest, and a bit later Elisa and Lucile drunkenly kill the man.
Upon waking up the next day Elisa and Lucile are
shocked to find the manís corpse, and become apprehensive that Josine
might somehow alert the world to their misdoings. The cousins decide to
kill Josine, and in the process uncover a dark secret.
The X rating this film received seems a little
gratuitous by modern standards, but LES COUSINES remains an eye-opener.
The sex and violence quotient is nothing to shout about, but the filmís
unrelieved sordidness is directly at odds with most everything in
todayís sanitized movie landscape.
The film in any event is well made, as you might expect
from an early seventies French production. The lavish production values
are striking, the performances generally strong, and the cinematography
crisp and professional (even though most prints of the film are
considerably scratched and faded). Such things only serve to amplify the
sleaziness of the enterprise, which despite its upscale trappings revels
in ugliness and perversion.
The whole thing could have been a bit more expansive
overall, as LES COUSINES often plays like a filmed play with its tightly
contained setting and repetitive narrative. But viewers desiring
unadorned exploitation are in for a treat!
LES COUSINES (I PIACERI DELLE DEMONI; LOVE DEMONS; FROM EAR TO EAR)
Les Actives Cinegraphiques/Productions Claude Capra
Director: Louis Soulanes
Producer: C. Leon-Dufour
Screenplay: Louis Soulanes
(Based on a novel by Fletcher D. Benson)
Cinematography: Albert Susterre
Cast: Nicole Debonne, Danielle Argence, Solange Pradel, Liliane Bert,
Robert Lombard, Jean Genin, Alain Doutey, Katia Tchenko, Bernard
Mesquich, Katia Bagarry