Directed by: François Truffaut
Written by: Henri-Pierre Roché (novel), François Truffaut
Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner and Henri Serre
At the crest of the French New Wave, Francois Truffaut’s Jules and Jim appealed to an audience already madly in love with creativity and the arts. And today? There are plenty of hipsters that could still turn to this film for inspiration.
With free-spirited characters and a love triangle that is impossibly alluring and dangerously unpredictable, Truffaut’s Jules and Jimnot only captures the bohemian lifestyles audiences pined for in the ’60’s, but also rebooted the European film industry in stylistically offering fresh and original cinematic techniques that have since been adopted by filmmakers all over the world.
In 1912, two young gentlemen meet in Paris. Jules (Werner) is Austrian, Jim (Serre) is French, and the two of them are like peas in a pod – boxing together, dating women together, and even piggy-backing each other in the opening sequence like children. After the two friends attend a sculpture slideshow, they are struck by an ancient Adriatic statue of a woman softly smiling. They are so taken by the image that they go to see the statue in the flesh, and soon after, meet Catherine (Moreau) who freakishly resembles the same exact smile the two men had been hypnotized by. From here, we see the tangled love triangle of these three best friends over the span of twenty five years. Jules marries Catherine, the war divides Jules and Jim, and they are reunited at Jules’ family home in the Reine. But as family life doesn’t sit well with Catherine, her heart wanders to different lovers, and try as they might, Jule and Jim just can’t keep up with her.
More than just a love story, Jules and Jim explores culture and art as a way of expressing emotions and experiences that cannot simply be delivered in words. Condensing twenty five years in the lives of three complex and distinct characters, Truffaut communicates their conflicts and moments of joy with a brilliant briefness loaded with detail and energy. We never get the sense that he is skimming over important information, or not taking the time to linger on significant moments in the lives of Jules, Jim, and Catherine. Instead, Truffaut uses the camera with a deftness and nimbleness that matches the energy and exuberance of the three characters.
Beautifully written and performed, Truffaut’s Jules and Jim is a film that craftily combines tragedy, romance, comedy and charm without feeling like it tries to do too many things at once.