François Truffaut's third feature, though it's named for the two best friends who become virtually inseparable in pre-World War I Paris, is centered on Jeanne Moreau's Catherine, the most mysterious, enigmatic woman in h... more »is career-long gallery of rich female portraits. Adapted from the novel by Henri-Pierre Roché, Truffaut's picture explores the 30-year friendship between Austrian biologist Jules (Oskar Werner) and Parisian writer Jim (Henri Serre) and the love triangle formed when the alluring Catherine makes the duo a trio. Spontaneous and lively, a woman of intense but dynamic emotions, she becomes the axle on which their friendship turns as Jules woos her and they marry, only to find that no one man can hold her. Directed in bursts of concentrated scenes interspersed with montage sequences and pulled together by the commentary of an omniscient narrator, Truffaut layers his tragic drama with a wealth of detail. He draws on his bag of New Wave tricks for the carefree days of youth--zooms, flash cuts, freeze frames--that disappear as the marriage disintegrates during the gloom of the postwar years. Werner is excellent as Jules, a vibrant young man whose slow, melancholy slide into emotional compromise is charted in his increasingly sad eyes and resigned face, while Serre plays Jim as more of an enigma, guarded and introspective. But both are eclipsed in the glare of Moreau's radiant Catherine: impulsive, demanding, sensual, passionate, destructive, and ultimately unknowable. A masterpiece of the French New Wave and one of Truffaut's most confident and accomplished films. --Sean Axmaker« less
"Francois Truffaut's Jules et Jim was a very popular art-house movie in the early sixties. The black and white French (English subtitled) film follows the friendship of two college students in bohemian Paris beginning in 1912. They meet Catherine, a free spirit who loves to shock people as much as she enjoys both men's love. She marries Jules, but is not satisfied. They reunite with Jim and continue their love triangle.Jeanne Moreau's Catherine is eternally alluring, selfish, manipulating, and cruel. She is perfect as the siren who plays with men as a cat plays with a mouse. Oscar Werner gives a sympathetic performance as the idealistic and vulnerable Jules, who goes from carefree youth to melancholy middle-age. Henri Serre is well-cast as Jim, more quiet and introspective, yet still helplessly drawn to the enigmatic Catherine.This is the kind of movie one admires more each time you see it. At first, you are dependent on the subtitles; later you just enjoy the flow of scenes, the gradual change in mood from youthful exuberance to subdued acceptance, and then the stark and tragic, yet inevitable, conclusion. If you like character-driven stories about unconventional people, you'll enjoy Jules and Jim."
Excellent transfer, for a film that is more poetry than pros
Robert Bezimienny | Sydney, NSW Australia | 06/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Criterion edition is a huge improvement over the Fox Lorber version. The picture quality is vastly better, with far less grain and markedly finer resolution; the subtitles are also positioned less obtrusively. I was disturbed by another reviewer's claim that the picture 'shook' - there was no shaking at all with my copy. The transfer was supervised and approved by the director of photography for the film, Raoul Coutard, so it is hardly surprising that it looks good; in some of the darker scenes there is some flickering, but this is hardly a major issue. I actually found the Fox Lorber print difficult and annoying to watch, while the Criterion is completely enjoyable, in fact better than prints I've seen at the cinema. * Having seen the film itself several times, I have to admit that on first viewing its great reputation was a bit baffling. My own expectations had been defeated, as I was expecting a film which was at core 'realist'. On subsequent viewings, it became much more rewarding, especially on encountering the idea that it is more a 'fairy tale' or, at least, a fable. When I stopped thinking of the film as 'prose' and allowed it to be appreciated as 'poetry', its spirit suddenly made sense. The style is truly original, and so inevitably preconceived expectations will be disappointed. * There is a pervasive light-hearted energy to the film, embodied in all aspects of its making, from the dancing camerawork, to the deft editing and playful performances. And this provides a poignant contrast to the themes explored, which deal with denser issues of commitment and allegiance. The characters might well be taken as representing larger ideas, such as national identity, but any symbolism is gestural and open-ended, so the film never feels preachy. * The extras provided are extensive and give great insight into the surprising background of the film - it is based on a book which in turn is a distanced recollection of the author's experience - so, in a sense, this is a 'true' story - although its tone is, as Truffaut puts it in an interview, more like a nostalgic traipsing through an old photo album. * A truly beautiful film, and the Criterion edition does it excellent service."
The film that changed my life
Louise R. Pulini | Glendale, NY | 02/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was 12 when I saw this on Public television on a Friday night-I sat alone in the TV room in our basement, away from the perpetual chaos of my home life upstairs, and watched it, transfixed. It completely changed how I looked at film, love and just about everything else. It also made me fall in love with everything French-a love affair that has lasted 40 years. I have taken countless people to see this film in art houses and I have bought and given away a few DVDs as well.
Truffaut's storytelling is crisp and clear, and the three actors are sublime. This is a triumph of the spirit and a deeply romantic film. C'est la vie magnifique."
An important and beautiful masterpiece
Hung Cheuk Man | Hong Kong | 12/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""A director only makes one film in his life, others are just replicas of this (extracted)" so said François Truffaut. Jules and Jim is "the" François Truffaut's movie. A classic film in its own right, the film shines until now since it is released almost 40 years ago. In the film history of New Wave, Jules and Jim is a milestone. A follower of Jean Renior and Alfred Hitchcock, François combines mise-en-secne with featured story flawlessly and creates powerful images which aim at developing characters' in-depth psychological changes and multi-facets. The 60s are the golden era of movies in which you read movies like books. You read the movies in a philosophical way. People talk and talk about the movies and never get tired of them. "Jules and Jim" is one of these films. "Jules and Jim" is an important movie of François Truffaut in that it is his first featured film that can achieve commercial success with the French critics. This love story portrays a love-triangle among two men and a woman. Light and pessimistic, the film conveys a sense of defeatism and existentialism in the French society overshadowed by the imminent First World War. Catherine (played by Jeanne Moreau) is a manipulative and luring woman. She represents the object of desire of man that a man could never expect her next move. Jules (Oskar Werner) falls into her trap. Worse still, he married this woman who, deep inside her heart, doesn't know who she loves (or nobody actually). Technically, the film exhibits the theory of mise-en-scene to the fullest in which French film theorist Andre Bazin has long been advocating, who developed his thesis from Jean Renoir's movies. Story is told by series of movie cuts and in a symbolic way. Narration alongside the moving of the story keeps the movie fast paced. Woman is not to be trusted, love is blind and random, man is a tragic/ pathetic creature. Intricate, rich, thought-provoking and affectionate story, "Jules and Jim" is one of the greatest movie of all time. François proved to be a gifted, talented and innovative movie director. Any moviegoers and students should watch this movie at least once, if not several for the life to come."
Fascinating classic French New Wave film from Truffaut
Kenji Fujishima | East Brunswick, NJ USA | 08/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Other than seeing him in Steven Spielberg's CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, I have never been much acquainted with the films of much-acclaimed French New Wave filmmaker Francois Truffaut. Recently, though, I decided to try one of his most famous films, JULES AND JIM, and, for the most part, I was not disappointed by it. Having seen Jean-Luc Godard's seminal BREATHLESS just recently on DVD, I was able to appreciate some of the similarities in style between the two films. The first half of JULES AND JIM, especially, is full of technical wizardry: Truffaut not only uses Godard's pioneering jump-cut technique, but also uses the occasional freeze fame to emphasize particular small moments (like Jeanne Moreau's facial expressions at one point), plays with his film's aspect ratio (filmed in 2.35:1 widescreen Franscope by Raoul Coutard, who also did similarly distinguished work in BREATHLESS) and even interspersing WWI newsreel footage into the film, in the manner of Orson Welles in CITIZEN KANE and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. But, as with all great filmmakers, all of this technique is not merely the empty stylings of a virtuoso visual artist. Not only does the technique bring a fascinating alive-ness to the picture; it emphasizes the joy in the lives of the three main characters before WWI and its sad aftermath set in.
Truffaut's characters are also fascinating to watch, their situations equally so. Here is a romantic triangle like no other I've ever seen, but the focus isn't necessarily on the two men who love the same woman. As the Amazon.com editorial review suggests, the film may be named after its two main male characters, but it really belongs to Catherine, the self-proclaimed "free spirit" female who is loved by almost every man she meets and yet never feels the need to settle with just one. She is a powerful and fascinatingly enigmatic character, indeed "ultimately unknowable." Yet what spirit we notice when we first see her onscreen! Who wouldn't be resisted by her adventurousness and sheer energy at first, especially the way Jeanne Moreau irresistibly plays her? And then we see how manipulative and restless she can really be, and we start to feel a little sympathy toward the gentle man who married her, Jules: this is perhaps the first woman he has truly admired and loved, and now that he has gotten her, he desperately wants to hold on to her, even going so far as to put up with her cheating ways. Jim, of course, feels a bit of jealousy when Jules marries her, but he keeps it to himself, as a good friend must...until Jules allows him to carry on an affair with her. Even then, though, she becomes unhappy with Jim when she cannot conceive of a child. All of these threads converge into an ending that is both shockingly sudden and lyrically poetic; you'll understand Jules' feeling of "relief" after the film is over, and perhaps you'll likely echo it yourself, after having watched these characters live the way they have.
The central performances are all first-rate. Oskar Werner and Henri Serre as Jules and Jim both exhibit convincing chemistry at the beginning of the film: you can tell they've been good friends for a long time. As the film progresses, though, Werner truly stands out as the long-suffering Jules: he draws you into his ambivalent, complicated feelings toward Catherine, and easily earns some audience sympathy. And Jeanne Moreau truly brings Catherine, the real protagonist of the film, to vivid life. She is always convincingly in character, and never makes Catherine's actions feel lightweight or inconsequential, like some other less-skilled movie stars might do.
I found the narration of the movie kind of a distraction at times. Voice-over narration can be convincing in some movies (the recent SEABISCUIT used it quite effectively, I think), but in JULES AND JIM I find it a bit too explanatory of characters' emotions, too much of a narrative shortcut---in short, perhaps a bit of laziness on Truffaut's part. If less was merely explained and more was suggested by visual means, the film might seem more like a real film, less like a filmed novel, with passages being quoted from it verbatim.
In the end, though, that blemish is a comparatively small one, one that doesn't diminish the lyricism and beauty of this film significantly. JULES AND JIM remains a magnificent achievement from the French New Wave, a fascinating, emotionally complex, and above all human film about a woman whose attempts at being in control of her life slowly takes its toll on the lives of the two others who love her so. Highly recommended."