Jordan Brooks writes about François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962). The film screens this Sunday as part of our Club Ciné strand, showcasing the best of French Cinema at Picturehouse Central.
An iconic classic of the French New Wave, François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim is a dizzying flounce into the early 20th century French upper class, a film which eschews traditional cinematic technique as a sort of meta challenge to audience expectations. Proving that even after completely removing the fourth wall, narrative cohesion and fascination can still be maintained, Truffaut seems to delight in mocking convention while adhering only to rules of his own creation.
A sprawling saga, the film explores the relationship between two men (the titular Jules and Jim) and their shared love for debauchery, art and one of cinema’s original manic pixie dream girls, the wildly erratic Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). The two men form a bond that transcends competition and the destruction of the Great War. Truffaut’s obsession with story is only exceeded by his love for the art of filmmaking. In this way, much of what Jules et Jim is can be said to be the shadows of a relationship—impressions left while connecting dots in time. Showing only select moments extracted from a lifelong friendship, Truffaut knows how powerful his medium of choice’s control of empathy can be. The more reserved Jules (Oskar Werner) is every bit as relatable as the boisterously affluent Jim (Henri Serre), and as a result, their mutual love for one another can be enjoyed twofold.
When Catherine gets thrown into the mix, the joyful exuberance of the film does not merely increase by a third, it doubles. More of a magical force of obsession than a real person, the bubbly and endlessly charming woman quickly earns the love of both men, and by extension, the love of the audience. Painted as a concoction of dreamlike infatuation and sensual desire, Catherine’s effect on the film is one of fantastic lightness. She isn’t a real or flawed woman, she is simply the embodiment of what a bored, bourgeois man thinks he needs in order to survive.Challenging the status quo is one of the touchstones of the Nouvelle Vague movement, and Jules et Jim is François Truffaut’s non-traditional answer to the Hollywood romantic comedy. Subverting definitions of happiness, love, friendship and even of cinema itself, this 1962 classic is an unmissable gem.
Join us at Picturehouse Central at 1:20pm on Sun 1 January. Book tickets.