Friday, January 5, 2018

CANON OF FILM: "JULES AND JIM"

JULES AND JIM (1962)

Director: Francois Truffaut
Screenplay: Francois Truaffaut & Jean Gruault adapted from the novel by Henri-Pierre Roche



I think there's a time in every young cinephile where we are somewhat dismissive of Francois Truffaut; I know I went through that stage, hell I wrote most of this Canon of Film entry back when I was in that stage. Part of me, in terms of French New Wave, still prefers Jean-Luc Godard's rebellious trolling self-referential instincts, even if in execution, can be tedious and obnoxious at times, I can appreciate the snarkiness on some juvenile level. At some point though, when you reach something that resembles maturity, You find yourself appreciating Truffaut much more.I still love Godard; I’ve already included Godard’s “Breathless,” in this Canon, which was a film Truffaut wrote, but I used to be concerned that I'd have to write more about Truffaut in the future, but now it seems more like a pleasure that I don't do as often.

I tend to prefer his later work, "Day for Night" I consider his best film, and most would probably point to "The 400 Blows" as his most influential and important, especially among new wave films, but of his New Wave movies, I appreciate "Jules et Jim" a lot more. I saw it years ago and remember the broad outlines of these three memorable characters who decide to be with each other in an unusual, eh, what’s-the-word, I want to say relationship, but that’s not quite correct. They're a threesome, but not necessarily a menage-a-trois, if that makes sense. Anyway, what I eventually found out watching the film again, that I hadn’t realized before is that first of all the film, despite it’s ending, and even including the ending to some degree, the film is quite funny. Secondly, I hadn’t realized just how completely scatterbrained the characters could be, scatterbrained in the best lovesick way possible, of course. Carefree and insouciant quick-cut edits, the especially in the beginning, that later pairs with long takes that last forever, really jolts you into this friendship. That being said, the greatness of "Jules et Jim" lies in how there's several emotions that you go through throughout the film. 

The movie begins with two friends, one Austrian, Jules (Oskar Werner), one French, Jim (Henri Surre), both of whom have troubles with women, both of whom eventually fall for Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). Then, WWI interrupts their lives. Then it ends, and they continue to do whatever is needed to be close to and in love with Catherine. The movie is probably one of the very last French New Wave films, which, and in terms of content, actually really shouldn’t qualify. It spans a few different decades, it doesn’t take place in modern time, although it certainly not comment on it. In fact the relationship between the three characters makes the movie incredibly modern; the film's probably comparable to say Michael Mayer's underrated “A Home at the End of the World,” also about three souls brought together as a non-traditional family, then it does anything else of it's time. And like that film, "Jules et Jim" was inspired by an autobiographical novel from Henri-Pierre Roche. who spent most of his life as a journalist associated with the Paris Avant-Garde and Dadaist movement. I guess there are other stories about similar relationship, most notably "Henry and June", inspired by Anais Nin's diary entries but that wasn't out yet at the time, and in many respects, this is one of the few examples of this kind of love triangle I can think of in literature beforehand. 

Somewhere in between the moments when the two guys switch between which one fascinates Catherine most, during whatever particular part of the story they’re in, the film begins to move from whimsical and carefree to disturbing and tragic. (Sure, unsurprisingly considering the success rate of three-way romances, but it's still sad.) Truffaut's rumored to have found the book at a Flee market for fifty cents, and was actually based on the writer’s own experiences. The deaths at the end were fictionalized, which makes sense; despite the tragic ending, this movie's death always felt more metaphorical than literal; it's the death of the relationships that tragedy, not the characters that we feel for, and other than the deaths at the end, there's nothing that indicates this is a "Love Story" or "Romeo & Juliet"-type tragic romance.

At this film's core, especially the erratic behavior of the Moreau character, this film could qualify as soap opera. Catherine probably isn't fascinated with the either men,- I mean, I'm sure she is but what she’s really attracted to is the fact that the two men are fascinated with her, making her jealous of the fact that the men are good friends with each other as well. Both of them have their own trysts with Catherine, but Jules and Jim were always thoughtful of Jules and Jim, and always allowed the other to care for Catherine. It's their friendship being tested by each of their relationships, which just happen to be with the same woman. Her problem was she wanted drama that’s not there, so, she had to be the one that created it, or at least ignited it. 

Taking the cameras onto the streets, the film remains one of the most influential of Truffaut’s work. It was made just as New Wave was coming to an end, but right before Truffaut’s work would become much more traditional narrative filmmaker.  Sure, he was always pathos-driven, but he stopped trying to appeal for sympathy and just reflected it in his work, but he became more conservative narratively for much of his career and "Jules and Jim", is the rare film of his that's right between these two extremes. In some ways that makes it his most fun movie, at least in terms of it's youthful abandonment. "Jules and Jim" is a tragic love story, but told in such an elusive and fun way, that you look back on it joyfulness and nostalgia. It might be a tale that takes place in the past, but it's a modern-day approach to romance that celebrates all aspects of it, including the parts that we might rather forget; it's all apart of being young and in love. 

Post a Comment