Truffaut came across the book in the mid-1950s whilst browsing through some secondhand books in Paris. Francois Truffaut’s movie ‘Jules et Jim’ from a novel by Roche. The author approved of the young director’s attempt to translate his work to another medium.
Roche was 73 years old when he published the book and he wrote it from his own experiences and memories fifty years before. The book was written at a distance then, much like the film which tells the tale of a triad in a light, matter-of-fact way. The sort of his film makes us feel nostalgic and sweetness at once passé and the beautiful chord that only Truffaut could have handled so poignantly.
Jules and Jim (French: Jules et Jim) is a 1962 French film- I look at this for many reasons and his usage of documentary footage from that era combined with his own black & white images are nicely done. Subsequently, the film looks much like the early twentieth century time frame it is supposed to represent. ‘Jules et Jim’ is part of a larger library of Truffaut films which all together dabble in just about every genre: suspense, comedy, drama, romance, even thriller. Truffaut was a student of film and proves he was not only a fan but could practice what he preached by making them, as well.
The actors are well-cast, especially Jeanne Moreau whose cat-like features lend mystery to her character. While not as personal as the ‘Antoine Doinel’ films, nor as sweet as Truffaut’s, “Small Change,” “Jules and Jim” is an artful period piece, nevertheless. In some ways, it is Truffaut’s homage to the big American costume drama. Truffaut is one such director who can handle almost any subject at casual best and his story telling attribute is engrossed so much in facet which is well-qualified to tackle any genre.
“You said, ‘I love you’, I said ‘Wait’. I was about to say, ‘Take me.’ You said ‘Go.”……..Francois Truffaut’s Jules and Jim is one of the most tragic and poetic love triangles ever made about two men- one French the other Austrian, who fall for the same woman who is clearly, morally unstable. The character of Catherine is one of the most interesting character studies of the cinema; a woman who on one hand, has an exciting love and passion for life and excitement, and on the other hand, is selfish, narcissistic and clearly takes advantage of the weak. She is the type of person who will never let other’s wrong her and yet believes she has the right to wrong anyone she pleases no matter how destructive her actions can be.
The film is set before, during and after the Great War in several different parts of France, Austria, and Germany. Jules (Oskar Werner) is a shy writer from Austria who forges a friendship with the more extroverted Jim (Henri Serre). They share an interest in the world of the arts and the Bohemian lifestyle. At a slide show early in the movie, they become entranced with a statue of a goddess and its serene smile.
After encounters with several women, they meet the free-spirited, capricious Catherine (Jeanne Moreau), a doppelgänger for the statue with the serene smile. Although she begins a relationship with Jules, both men are affected by her presence and her attitude toward life. A few days before the declaration of war, Jules and Catherine move to Austria to get married. Both men serve during the war; however, they serve on the opposing sides, and each fears throughout the conflict that he might have killed the other.
After the wartime separation, Jim visits, and later stays with, Jules and Catherine in their house in the Black Forest. Jules and Catherine have a little daughter, Sabine, but the marriage is not a happy one. Catherine torments and punishes Jules with numerous affairs, and he tells Jim that she once left Jules and their daughter for six months. She flirts with and attempts to seduce Jim, who has never forgotten her. Jules, desperate that Catherine might leave him forever, gives his blessing for Jim to marry Catherine so that he may continue to visit them and see her. For a while, the four of them live happily together in the same chalet in Austria, until tensions between Jim and Catherine arise because of their inability to have a child. Jim leaves Catherine and returns to Paris. After several exchanges of letters between Catherine and Jim, they resolve to reunite when it is discovered that Catherine is indeed with child after all. However, the reunion does not occur after Jules writes to inform Jim that his and Catherine’s unborn baby has miscarried.
After a time, Jim runs into Jules in Paris. He finds that Jules and Catherine have returned to France. Catherine attempts to win Jim back, but he rebuffs her, saying he is going to marry Gilberte. Furious, she pulls a gun on him, but he wrestles it away and flees. He later encounters Jules and Catherine in a famous (at that time) movie theater, the Studio des Ursulines.
The three of them stop at an outdoor cafe. Catherine asks Jim to get into her car, saying she has something to tell him. She asks Jules to watch them and drives the car off a broken bridge, killing herself and Jim. Jules is left to deal with the ashes of his friends
We see this film go through several decades of these three character’s lives, showing a woman who has given Jules and Jim life and joy, as well as sorrow and unhappiness. Jules and Jim was released in 1962, which was at the creative peak of the French New Wave, and it was Truffaut’s third feature after the success of his debut ‘The 400 Blows’ and ‘Shoot the Piano Player’ in 1960. Many usually site Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Breathless’ as the most influential film that started the French New Wave, but ‘Jules and Jim’ was the most brave and lovable combining such New Wave aesthetics as newsreel footage, photographic stills, freeze frames, panning shots, wipes, masking, dolly shots, and voice-over narration. The French New Wave was considered a certain European art form during the late 50s and 60s and was a movement led by a group of young filmmakers that included Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Alain Resnais, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette who were connected to the magazine ‘Cahiers du cinema’.
The idea of The French New Wave film was always been the personal and most freewheeling attempts where the directors often chose to shoot on location, using natural lighting and often using hand-held cameras which added to the untried & experimental texture of the films. The themes explored in the French New Wave include breaking the distinctive boundaries of realism, and the idea of exploring the relationships between men and women. With films of The French New Wave there was a fresh excitement and joy in the way the films were created with its raw style and spontaneous energy, and you can clearly see that energy and style in Jules and Jim. You can later see that same energy in the late 60’s American films starting with Bonnie and Clyde (which Truffaut was originally going to direct) and the Anti-establishment films of youths and rebellion against authority and society. Jules and Jim were the flower children of the 60’s as the film also explored strong ambitious women and the liberating freedoms of female sexuality. Some people look at Jules and Jim as being a highly feminist film and the unbalanced character of Catherine to be a strong liberating female character, which is an interesting theory since the ending of Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise, which is also considered a highly feminist film, has a striking parallel ending to Jules and Jim. The hypnotic power of Truffaut’s masterpiece is how he masterfully manipulates his audience into blindingly falling for the character of Catherine right along with Jules and Jim, as we too ultimately allow ourselves into becoming another one of Catherine’s many victims
So much said about the history of French films and New Wave- This is one of the most beautiful films ever made and what makes it such a poignant work of art is how I felt during the film. I, like Jules and Jim have fallen in love with Catherine as well and envisioned her like the statue of purity, which was looked upon as the ‘perfect woman.’ Similar to the likes of the femme fetale, Jeanne Moreau’s character of Catherine is so beautiful, so exciting, so spontaneous and so full of life that I can understand how such a woman can make a man feel; blinding him of all the obvious signs that she is something to stay completely away from. That’s what makes Truffaut’s film so magical and one of the greatest films ever made.
French films always been an inspiration and just the times before the era of New Wave, the likes of Jean Renoir and Jean Vigo, made then-radical cases for the artistic distinction and greatness of Hollywood studio directors such as Orson Welles, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock and Nicholas Ray were so much influenced and the beginning of the New Wave was to some extent an exercise by the Cahiers writers in applying this philosophy to the world by directing movies themselves.
Looking at the nature of French New Wave and its influences around the globe- The master minds were Bazin and Henri Langlois, who curated so much with the Cinémathèque Française, spearheaded the movement. These men of cinema valued the expression of the director’s personal vision in both the film’s style and script. The entire movement also signified the ‘auteur theory’- here the director’s aptitude was so solid that earmarked their own signature, visible and distinctive from film to film.
The oblique influences are so much natural, witty and radiant of Jules et Jim is one of the best French movies ever made and certainly a highlight of the New Wave. What an inspiration this ought’ and Truffaut doesn’t delay–nothing is held too long, nothing is overstated and I would recommend Jules et Jim for all the love in its most endearing way…… Oh yes and small distinct note is the soundtrack by Georges Delerue was named as one of the “10 best soundtracks” by Time magazine in its “All Time 100 Movies” and this film ranked 46 in Empire magazine’s “The 100 Best Films of World Cinema”
- Produced, Written & Directed by François Truffaut
- Based on the Novel ‘Jules et Jim’ by Henri-Pierre Roché
- Co-Produced by Marcel Berbert
- Co-Written by Jean Gruault
- Casting: Jeanne Moreau; Oskar Werner & Henri Serre
- Music by Georges Delerue & Boris Bassiak (song: Le Tourbillon)
- Cinematography Raoul Coutard
- Editing by Claudine Bouché
- Studio Les Films du Carrosse/ SEDIF
- Distributed by Cinédis; Gala & Janus Films
- Release dates (France) January 23, 1962; (UK) May 17, 1962 & (USA) May 1962
- Running time of 105 minutes
- Country: France
- Language: French