For Reel

Jules and Jim (1962)
January 31, 2016, 4:33 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: François Truffaut
5 Stars
Jules and JimIn conversation and in histories of the French New Wave, Jules and Jim is often championed for its playful whimsy, exemplified most iconically by the shot of the three main characters stampeding across a bridge. Imagine a new viewer’s surprise, then, to discover what an anti-romance the film turned out to be, and how pained and despairing the narrative actually is. Design for Living this is not. The early-goings are true to the film’s legacy–Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre) are best friends but polar opposites, two sides of the same coin. The introduction of Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) into their routine seems natural in that she accessorizes their sense of carefree Bohemian living, bringing a mysterious, beautiful face to their content but vacuous lifestyle. When the film moves to the post-war years, however, François Truffaut’s interest turns to not only the narcissism of these characters, but how Catherine’s failure to live up to expectations of the men in her life leads to romantic chaos. Similarly, the filmmaking transitions from rapidly-edited, breathless interludes to something more staid and typical, as if the film itself has grown up with the characters and the more jaded sociopolitical landscape. Truffaut’s famous quote was that the film explores how, “Monogamy is impossible, but the alternative is worse.” Indeed, the romance of the film plays out as an apocalyptic vision of monogamy, just as the traditional values of the pre-war period had become obsolete but not yet substituted by a functional alternative. It is a film about the violence of transition, where shifting expectations inevitably lead to dissatisfaction.

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