Marie-Christine Barrault received her only Oscar nomination to date for playing Marthe, an unhappily married woman who find happiness on the side of her cousin by marriage. Barrault's nomination is kind of a miracle to say the least. I mean, how the hell did she get nominated? I don't see a reason. She didn't have a showy, stylish foreign-language performance that usually get nominated, she wasn't an international superstar plus she wasn't even nominated for a César. The years ending with a 6 have usually quite unusual Best Actress fields (1966, 1976, 1986, 1996). So in Barrault's case it was more than true that it's an honor just to be nominated.
Cousin Cousine is a very entertaining lightweight French movie. It's really not something for the ages but as I said it's very amusing from the beginning to the end. It doesn't make you laugh very often but it keeps a smile on your face. I'm not sure if it deserved its Best Foreign Language Film nomination but why not. It's really not an Oscar movie to say the least. It follows two people living in bad marriages who meet at a wedding and fall in love gradually. The actors give very entertaining and strong performances. Nobody is amazing but I have to mention Marie-France Pisier who was the standout of the supporting cast. She's really funny.
I'd like to give an opinion about Marie-Christine Barrault but I really can't say anything about her talent and works. Cousin Cousine was the first movie I saw her in so I can only form an opinion about her based on this performance alone. From what I saw, she's a very charming actress but I just can't imagine her in a heavy drama. However, she wasn't required to do anything serious in Cousin Cousine. Her task was bascially to be as charming and loveable as possible and she succeeded.
Again, this nomination is sort of shocking because of the unspectacular character AND performance. Barrault's character Marthe is not a very complicated person, she doesn't have to go through some big changes (though she doesn change a bit) and she's not always at the centre of the movie. Moreover, Barrault is not the real standout here. Is there still something to love about her? Surprisingly, quite much.
We first see marthe at her mother's wedding and she seems to be just a really nice person. Somehow, Barrault radiates so much charm and loveliness and it's always pure joy just to look at her. She was the perfect choice to play Marthe. Acting-wise, she doesn't have to do much and yet there's something utterly irresistable and lovely about her which still continues to impress me. I especially loved her towards the middle of the movie where we saw scenes of Marthe's affair. Actually, these are the scenes where Barrault adds some depth to her character. The scenes with Victor Lanoux and Marie-Christine Barrault are just excellent. They have a very unusual but wonderful chemistry and they are the perfect couple in their imperfection. They seem to be like children playing at the playground. They are throwing each other some balls and they never fail to catch them. Their happiness made me feel so good while watching the feel. I haven't seen adultery shown in such a loveable way. If I think about it, it comes to my mind that they actually cheat on their spouses and yet it's far from scandalous and offensive.
My favorite scene in the whole film was when Marthe and Ludovic (her lover) are talking about their previous experiences with adultery. Both actors excel there. Barrault and Lanoux let me inside the heads of their loveable characters and they seemed so human. I guess that's what got the attention of the Academy members. Barrault made Marthe's character so loveable and ordinary and yet very interesting. There was real depth there and it was actually quite touching to see Marthe talk about he previous affair with a guy from the office in a casual and yet quite bitter way.
I still ask myself the question: was this performance much of a strech? Probably not. Marthe's not a very complicated character but Marie-Christine Barrault did a great job playing her. Although she's far from amazing, there are no flaws in this performance and it serves its purpuse perfectly. It's very enjoyable work that I would love to rewatch any time.
What do you think?