Jules and Jim

It's fitting that the poster for Jules and Jim, directed in 1962 by François Truffaut, does not feature neither Jules nor Jim. It shows Catherine, a woman that they are both in love with. It is another one of those movies that did a lot of revolutionary things that are a little hard to understand now. It's a lot to summarize what was new about this movie, and some of it I didn't pick up on right away. Ebert mentions that the movie was made with joy, and I can feel that as well. It still comes across and makes the movie feel really fresh and not dated in any way.

I really liked the story, first and foremost. It can be tough to figure out what exactly was so new in a film like this, where so many of our movie have been influenced by this style. I put that sort of analysis on a back-burner, and just watched the movie focusing on the story, the message, and the acting. I really enjoyed all of those parts together. I loved that I got to know all of the characters so well, and I was really drawn into the plot. It was  a great, relaxing way to spend my afternoon.
I feel like I was explaining a movie that is happier than this one. It starts of decadently optimistic. Jules and Jim are best friends, and they share everything, even their girlfriends. They go to see a slide show of statues, and are both taken with the same one. Later, seeking it out, they meet Catherine, who looks exactly like the statue. She starts a relationship with Jules, and he tells Jim that Catherine is his, and his alone. Of course, both men are in love with her anyway, and she affects both of their lives. It seems like things are good with Jules and Catherine on the surface - they have a daughter and seem happy, but Jules confides in Jim that Catherine has affairs, and is always unhappy. He knows that she wants Jim, and Jules is willing to do anything to keep Catherine happy, even sharing her with Jim.

I really like romantic drama movies like this. They can be more depressing and harder to watch than say, a romantic comedy, but I really find myself drawn to them for some reason. I used to always hate romantic comedies when I was younger because I felt like they made me depressed. I knew that relationships didn't work out like the did in those movies, and it made me frustrated to watch all of the charming perfection. Perhaps that is why I like the more upsetting genre, and why I like movies like Jules and Jim. I can understand and relate to the plot more when the characters struggle and have issues in their relationships, I guess.

What was so masterful about this movie was how wonderfully and fluidly the 25 years of Jules and Jim's relationship are compressed. There is no real sense that you missed any major or interesting moments in their lives, but also no feeling of lingering. The movie does not feel long or meandering at all, and somehow the 25 years felt quick, but thorough, I guess.  Ebert writes, "The narrator also hurries things along, telling us what there is no time to show us. The use of a narrator became one of Truffaut's favorite techniques; it's a way of signaling us that the story is over and its ending known before it even begins. His use of brief, almost unnoticeable freeze-frames treats some of the moments as snapshots, which also belong to the past" (Great Movies II, 213). I think he just uses such a great mix of techniques to cover all those years and still keep the pace moving along quickly. Truffaut was clearly a great artist, and it's so nice to see his talent in his work.

The movie is not all happy memories, though, but this is what I love about it. It's worth watching, and right now it's streaming on Netflix, and on Hulu as well. It's certainly not a happy film, but it is a beautiful film, and a good one. I personally really like movies like this, so I'm a big fan already. Plus, I like Truffaut, and I admire his talent. He really did a lot to change film for the better, and it's hard to not appreciate that. Let me know if you check this out!

Have any thoughts on Jules and Jim? Share them in the comments!

Links:
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Jules and Jim
Buy it on Amazon


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