French documentary ‘Cousin Jules’ moves with rhythms of farm life

“Cousin Jules” follows the life of elderly farmer and blacksmith Jules Guiteaux. The film was shot over five years in a rural town in France’s Burgundy region.
“Cousin Jules” follows the life of elderly farmer and blacksmith Jules Guiteaux. The film was shot over five years in a rural town in France’s Burgundy region.Cinema Guild

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Cousin Jules

Cousin Jules” is one of those experiences that’s rooted in the past yet feels very much of the moment. Even the film’s appearance in 2014 is a joke played on history.

Shot over five years in the Pierre-de-Bresse area of Burgundy, Dominique Benicheti’s documentary about an elderly farmer, Jules Guiteaux, won the top prize at the 1973 Locarno Film Festival and promptly dropped from sight. Who would expect a slow, uninflected, non-narrative portrait of French peasants to find a theatrical release? Four decades on, this exquisitely shot movie fits right in to the school of Slow Cinema.

Benicheti alternates between macrocosm and microcosm, giving us painterly images of the landscape before focusing on the small, momentous act of sewing a button on a shirt. In French with subtitles.

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