Cousin Jules: This Quiet French Documentary Commands Your Attention
What is this documentary about? We know that it was completed in 1973. We know it was directed by Dominique Benicheti. We know it concerns a very old married couple who once lived somewhere in rural France. We know that the husband is a blacksmith and the wife is a housewife. He works on metal; she works on the house. For part of the documentary, we watch the two doing their thing: She fetches water from the well; he fills the forge with wood. We notice the wife is missing a finger; we notice the husband loves wearing a cap. Later in the documentary, the wife vanishes, and we only see the activities of the blacksmith. Is he living alone? Did she die? Maybe. Whatever happened, one thing is for sure: Life goes on.
The documentary was never officially released during the director's lifetime—he died in 2011. So why watch this film? Why was it restored by Arane-Gulliver Laboratories after all of these years? Because the documentary is about filmmaking itself. What you will enjoy in Cousin Jules are three of the six important elements of the art. The six: acting, plot, photography, editing, sound design, and music. What's emphasized in Cousin Jules: photography, editing, and sound design. The images of this rustic world are gorgeous, the editing of the couple's movements around the house or outside never misses a beat, and the sound design captures the crisp details of this silent life (the documentary has almost no dialogue or ambient human-made noises). You will hear this: the ticking of the clock, the clop of wooden shoes on hardwood floors, the sound of water boiling, the sound of old and muddy clothes, the sound of the hammer rocking to a rest, the sound of a fork hitting a plate containing potatoes that the wife spent an eternity peeling. These are the sounds of cinema.