Jules Et Jim - Film (Movie) Plot and Review





(Jules and Jim)


France, 1962


Director: François Truffaut

Production: Films du Carosse and SEDIF; 1962; black and white, 35mm, Franscope; running time: 105 minutes. Released 23 January 1962, Paris. Filmed 1963 Alsace, Paris, and Venice.


Producer: Marcel Berbert; screenplay: François Truffaut and Jean Gruault, from the novel by Henri-Pierre Roché; photography: Raoul Coutard; editor: Claudine Bouche; sound: Témoin; music: Georges Delerue, song "Le Tourbillon" by Bassiak; costume designer: Fred Capel.


Cast: Jeanne Moreau ( Katherine ); Oscar Werner ( Jules ); Henri Serre ( Jim ); Vanna Urbino ( Gilberte ); Boris Bassiak ( Albert ); Sabine Haudepin ( Sabine ); Marie Dubois ( Thérèse ); Jean-Louis Richard ( 1st Customer in café ); Michel Varesano ( 2nd Customer in café ); Pierre Fabre ( Drunkard in the café ); Danielle Bassiak ( Albert's friend ); Bernard Largemains ( Merlin ); Elen Bober ( Mathilde ); Michel Subor ( Narrator ).

Publications


Script:

Truffaut, François, and Jean Gruault, Jules et Jim , in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 1962; as Jules and Jim , New York, 1968.


Books:

Graham, Peter, The New Wave , New York, 1968.

Petrie, Graham, The Cinema of François Truffaut , New York, 1970.

Crisp, C. G., and Michael Walker, François Truffaut , New York, 1971.

Boyum, Joy, and Adrienne Scott, Film as Film: Critical Responses to Film Art , Boston, 1971.

Crisp, C. G., François Truffaut , London, 1972.

Jules et Jim
Jules et Jim

Fanne, Dominique, L'Univers de François Truffaut , Paris, 1972.

Allen, Don, Finally Truffaut , London, 1973; revised edition, 1985.

Monaco, James, The New Wave , New York, 1976.

Collet, Jean, Le Cinéma de François Truffaut , Paris, 1977.

Insdorf, Annette, François Truffaut , Boston, 1978, 1989.

Horton, Andrew, and Joan Magretta, Modern European Filmmakers and the Art of Adaptation , New York, 1981.

Walz, Eugene P., François Truffaut: A Guide to References and Resources , Boston, 1982.

Winkler, Willi, Die Filme von François Truffaut , Munich, 1984.

Bergala, Alain, and others, Le Roman de François Truffaut , Paris, 1985.

Collet, Jean, François Truffaut , Paris, 1985.

Truffaut, François, Truffaut par Truffaut , edited by Dominique Rabourdin, Paris, 1985.

De Fornari, Oreste, I filme di François Truffaut , Rome, 1986.

Dalmais, Hervé, Truffaut , Paris, 1987.

Cahoreau, Gilles, François Truffaut: 1932–1984 , Paris, 1989.

Brunette, Peter, editor, Shoot the Piano Player: François Truffaut, Director , New Brunswick, 1993.

Le Berre, Carole, François Truffaut , Paris, 1993.

Truffaut, François , The Films in My Life , Cutchogue, 1994.

Holmes, Diana, and Robert Ingram, François Truffaut , Manchester, 1998.

Labarthe, André S., La nouvelle vague: Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, François Truffaut/textes et entretiens parus dans les Cahiers du cinéma, réunis par Antoine de Baecque et Charles Tesson , Paris, 1999.

Jacob, Gilles, François Truffaut: Correspondence, 1945–1984 , Lanham, 2000.


Articles:

Marcorelles, L., "Interview with François Truffaut," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1961–62.

Truffaut, François, in Films and Filming (London), no. 10, 1962.

"Conversation with François Truffaut," in New York Film Bulletin , no. 3, 1962.

Delahaye, Michel, "Les Tourbillons élémentaires," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1962.

Sarris, Andrew, in Village Voice (New York), 3 May 1962.

Baker, Peter, in Films and Filming (London), June 1962.

Roud, Richard, in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1962.

Tyler, Parker, in Film Culture (New York), Summer 1962.

Stanbrook, Alan, "The Stars They Couldn't Photograph," in Films and Filming (London), February 1963.

Graham, Peter, "The Face of '62—France," in Films and Filming (London), May 1963.

Greenspan, Roger, in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1963.

Shatnoff, Judith, "François Truffaut: The Anarchist Imagination," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Spring 1963.

Klein, Michael, "The Literary Sophistication of François Truffaut," in Film Comment (New York), Summer 1965.

Solomon, Stanley, in Film Heritage (Dayton, Ohio), Winter 1965–66.

Rosenblatt, Daniel, in Film Society Review (New York), November 1968.

Houston, Beverley, and Marsha Kinder, "Truffaut's Gorgeous Killers," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Winter 1973–74.

Coffee, Barbara, "Art and Film in François Truffaut's Jules and Jim and Two English Girls ," in Film Heritage (Dayton, Ohio), Spring 1974.

Mast, Gerald, "From 400 Blows to Small Change ," in New Republic (New York), 2 April 1977.

Thiher, A., "The Existential Play in Truffaut's Early Films," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), Summer 1977.

Davidson, D., "From Virgin to Dynamo: The 'Amoral Woman' in European Cinema," in Cinema Journal (Evanston, Illinois), Fall 1981.

Marinero, F., in Casablanca (Madrid), May 1982.

Carreno, J. M., in Casablanca (Madrid), February 1984.

Norman, Barry, "Barry Norman on" in Radio Times (London), vol. 273, no. 3572, 13 June 1992.

Murphy, K., "La belle dame sans merci," in Film Comment (New York), November-December 1992.

Stonehill, B., "Les auteurs terribles," in Film Comment (New York), November-December 1992.

Flitterman-Lewis, S., "Fascination, Friendship, and the 'Eternal Feminine' or the Discursive Production of (Cinematic) Desire," in French Review , vol. 66, no. 6, 1993.

Garcin, J., " Jules et Jim : François Truffaut," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), Hors-série, 1993.

Lucas, Tim, " The 400 Blows/Jules et Jim ," in Video Watchdog (Cincinnati), no. 19, September-October 1993.

Crowdus, Gary, "Truffaut on Laserdisc," in Cineaste (New York), vol. 20, no. 3, 1994.

Dalle Ore, F., "A Voice in the Dark: Feminine Figuration in Truffaut's Jules et Jim ," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), vol. 22, no. 4, October 1994.

Landrot, Marine, "La chambre ouverte," in Télérama (Paris), no. 2340, 16 November 1994.

Andrew, Geoff, "Rum Truffaut," in Time Out (London), no. 1350, 3 July 1996.


* * *


Jules and Jim is among the masterpieces of the French New Wave and may be considered the high achievement of that movement. The first films of Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol & Co. had astonished the world with a vitality that seemed evanescent, while too many of the films after 1962 are generally thought to be decadent and cloying in their search for novel effects. But with Jules and Jim we have a film that is at once vital, astonishing, and mature. Its solidity as well as its richness have kept it from fading even under the intense light of scholarship and criticism to which it has been continually subject.

In some respects it is not a characteristic New Wave film, for it chronicles 30 years in the lives of its characters, opening brightly in La Belle Epoche and closing in the grim era of the Depression and the rise of Hitler. Whereas most New Wave films sought to express the rhythms of their own epoch with complete freshness, Truffaut in this film retreated to the past. But in its own way Jules and Jim is faithful to the existentialist ethic and aesthetic of the New Wave period, for no film strives more obviously for authenticity in its quest to tap the feelings of a liberated generation whose morality must be achieved on the run.

Oddly, it was through the intermediary of a 75-year-old sensibility, that of novelist Henri-Pierre Roché, that Truffaut was able to shape this past into a pure picture of his own generation. When he read the novel upon its publication in 1955, he immediately contacted Roché, initiating a correspondence that continued until the latter's death which occurred just before the film went into production. Of course in 1955 Truffaut was but a minor critic who could only dream of the film this novel might become. Nevertheless, even at that time he mentioned it as an example of the kind of living, breathing story he claimed was missing from the moribund "Cinema of Quality" which dominated the 1950s in France.

What was it that gave this novel its vigor, and how did Truffaut succeed in letting its spirit animate his film when at length he was able to make it? One must begin with the plethora of incidents spilling out of the novel's first pages. While Truffaut has drastically reduced their number and, more certainly, the number of characters he introduces, both works dizzy their audience. La Belle Epoche is carefree and exciting as lived through Jules and Jim. It becomes more dangerous and even more exciting once they attach themselves to Katherine.

The bubbling first third of the film is a textbook in photographic and editing effects (stop frame, swish pans, stock footage, jump cuts). Only the narrator who ties together these fragments hints wistfully at the trouble to come. The film makes its inevitable descent just as Katherine accepts Jules' marriage proposal. For his dream has been attained on the eve of the outbreak of the Great War, a war so graphically documented that it brutalizes the earlier sentiments of the film, tossing its characters off their merry-go-round where they land, still and stunned. This second movement shows the reality of living with Katherine, the dream they had so hectically pursued. Her fickleness makes them prisoners of their own desires, and their imaginations, still rich with inventiveness, are tethered to one who is neither beautiful nor intelligent but for whom they would surrender their lives because she is pure woman (spontaneous, tender, cruel). The conclusion is more sombre still, as each character achieves a compensating wisdom, a sense of self. Katherine is both fire and water, the vitriol she pours down the sink. She chooses water for death, cremation for burial. Jim is romantic, a dashing Parisian novelist who travels after the war in search of the 20th century. Comfortable with his shifting feelings, he runs from Gilberte to Katherine whenever she calls him. Finally there is Jules who treasures their lives to the full. A Buddhist in sensibility, he possesses Katherine through patience. An entomologist, he would write of the loves that insects aspire to. Nothing is too small for his attention. His resignation and nostalgia place him nearest the narrator, as he looks back at a time when life was full of freedom and promise.

If the film's plot is a progressive decline, its images set off these oppositions at every turn. The film's first enthusiasts pointed to the interplay of circles and triangles. The lovers directly illustrate the triangle they are living as they welcome the morning from three separate windows at the seashore. The sharp angular pans of the camera keep us wondering in which direction love must flow. But it is the spinning circularity of the cinemascope most viewers recall, a circularity repeated in the cafe tables, the tadpoles swimming round their bowl, in Katherine's cosmology which holds the world to be an inverted bowl. Bicycles are in circles; Sabine rolls over and over to the music which culminates in Katherine's prophetic song, her "Rondo of love."

These two master graphic forms come together, Roger Greenspun observed, in the hourglass measuring out the final days of La Belle Epoche and the preciousness of the briefest instants of life. Art is another such measure, and Jules and Jim is a catalogue of the arts. Scattered through its texture are references to old films, to photography and slideshows, to statues, paintings, novels, the theater, and music. This is a story about the drive to raise life to art and art to eternity. In the abundance of its episodes, symbols, citations, and tales, and in its mixture of excitement and resignation, Jules and Jim never lets up in its own drive to give meaning to and express the vitality of life. This was the ambition of the New Wave, and this film is its apotheosis.

—Dudley Andrew



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