Jules et Jim, 1961
[Jules and Jim]
and Jim is François Truffaut's deceptively lyrical,
yet understatedly complex nouvelle vague film on love and friendship.
At the heart of the conflict is the enigmatic Catherine (exquisitely
played by the incomparable Jeanne Moreau), whose chameleon personality
adapts to suit the relationship she is in. (Note the effect of
the equally inscrutable character, Anna, in Louis Malle's Damage.)
In fact, she is the avatar of an intriguing, seemingly unfinished
statue with a haunting smile that the two best friends, Jules (Oskar
Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre), were captivated by during a friend's
slide presentation of the Adriatic Island (so much so that the two
travel to the same outdoor museum just to see it). For Jules, the
shy, conservative Austrian, Catherine assumes the image of a devoted
country wife and mother. For Jim, the adventurous, extroverted Frenchman,
she transforms herself into a carefree, sexually liberated lover.
The tragedy of the film lies in Catherine's emotional ambiguity towards
Jules and Jim. Inasmuch as she desires both men, she eludes their
attempts to love her. Unable to choose between them, she destroys
everyone by holding on. Set during the advent of World War I, Jules
and Jim is an allegorical film about the turmoil between French
nationalism and the German occupation of World War II. As with the
characters' doomed love triangle, the film is a scathing indictment
of a country led to ruin by lack of conviction and feigned neutrality.
uses the recurrent theme of cycles throughout the film (as in Anatole
Litvak's Goodbye Again).
Jules habitually turns an hourglass at his apartment in order to set
his bedtime. There is a scene where the camera pans around the bistro,
beginning and ending with the two friends talking. Catherine is constantly
changing hats, and assumes a different personality with each one.
Bicycle trips feature prominently in several scenes, and involve Catherine's
lovers. Lastly, note the structure and lyrics of Catherine's song,
which allude to her pattern of indiscretions, separations, and reconciliations
with Jules. Similar to Claude Sautet's Un
Coeur en Hiver, the cyclical theme represents a love triangle.
However, it also symbolizes a vicious circle - Catherine's self-destructive
"whirlpool" - of extramarital affairs, emotional vacillation, and
cruelty to the people who love her. It is a desperate, hopelessly
impossible situation that entraps, rather than liberates. Jules
and Jim is a deeply profound film about the devastating consequences
of indecision on three people... and a nation.
1998. All rights reserved.
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