When naïve, straight-arrow Charles (Blain) moves to Paris from the provinces to complete his studies, he takes up residence with his more worldly cousin Paul (Brialy), who opens his eyes to a highly decadent lifestyle. Paul's apartment is home to wild parties, drinking, smoking and general dissipation — not the best environment for an aspiring law student hitting the books. Charles soon falls for the beautiful Florence (Mayniel), but returns home one day to find his new girlfriend in the arms of his cousin. The three go on living together, but this unnatural state of affairs sours the mood and paves the way for tragedy.
This smart, dark psychological drama, Chabrol's second film, turns a classic city mouse/country mouse fable into a devastating morality play. (Actors Blain and Brialy were reunited after appearing in the director's debut feature the prior year, "Le Beau Serge.") Now the two, in effect, switch roles to even better effect, with Blain compelling as the fresh-faced innocent and Brialy a stand-out as the slick Paul, whose partying ways mask a total absence of empathy or feeling. Chabrol builds a gradual feeling of dread throughout, but that ending still manages to surprise. Be sure not to miss this one-of-a-kind family reunion.