Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


Henri Serre and Oskar Werner
JULES AND JIM (aka Jules et Jim/1962). Director: Francois Truffaut. Based on a novel by Henri-Pierre Roche.

French Jim (Henri Serre) and German Jules (Oskar Werner) become the best of friends in Paris, and become a trio when they meet the free-spirited Catherine (Jeanne Moreau of The Yellow Rolls Royce). Eventually she marries Jules and all of them are separated by WW 1. After the war they are reunited, and Catherine transfers her affections to Jim, despite the fact that she and Jules have a young daughter. They live together in a kind of strictly heterosexual menage a trois, but Catherine's screwy personality is such that a lasting happiness with either man may be unlikely for her ...

Jeanne Moreau and Oskar Werner
The "New Wave" Jules and Jim was much admired when it was released and still certainly has plenty of fans among foreign film  enthusiasts. The generally fast-paced film is well-acted by the three leads, it boasts a fine score by Georges Delerue [The Conformist] and beautiful cinematography from Raoul Coutard. There is a free-love, supposedly European frankness to the film that certainly differentiates it from a Hollywood soap opera without necessarily improving upon it. In fact, one can imagine the same story being told by a major Hollywood director who could have given it much more impact, although the downside is that the production code might have insisted on the old moralistic "sin and suffer" approach. The trouble is that the characters of Jules and Jim never quite seem like real people, just sketches made with too-broad brush strokes; instead of seeming sophisticated, they just come off as childish. There's too much of the narrator telling us things about these people instead of letting the film show us. The light touch of the movie, with everyone seeming to accept the situation (without really doing so), is at odds with the utterly melodramatic, indeed somewhat farcical,  developments that wind up the picture. Still, it's just these bizarre touches that probably made the picture stand out when otherwise it might have been forgotten. Jules and Jim is too well-made to dismiss, but I can't quite disagree with those people who think it might have better been titled "Two Dopes and a Skank (who can't make up her mind)." A better Truffaut film is The Story of Adele H

Verdict: Like a fair-to-middling French Woody Allen movie, for better or worse. **1/2. 


angelman66 said...

Have never seen this one, only read about it, but other examples of the French New Wave cinema never captured my imagination...for example, was never a fan of Bardot, Vadim, or Truffaut.

William said...

I tend to agree with you on that. There is an obsessive Cult of Truffaut that I have never belonged to, and this film, one of his most acclaimed, did not make me a believer.