"The story of Les cousins could be straight out of one of the Balzac novels that the film's lead character Charles peruses at a second-hand bookshop," suggests Andrew Schenker in Slant: "Ambitious provincial comes to Paris and receives his moral education in the hotbed of corruption and/or decadence that characterizes life in the capital. In Claude Chabrol's film, his second directorial effort following his 1958 debut, Le beau Serge, the milieu in question is the debauched world of students, young women, and older hangers-on that the director delineates with superb specificity of detail and a virtuoso display of sickening verve." Criteron's presentation, he adds, "is a fitting testament to the late director's brilliance."
Criterion's also releasing Le beau Serge today and the essays by Terrence Rafferty that accompany each have been posted in Current. When Le beau Serge premiered out of competition in Cannes, notes Rafferty,