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  Jules et Jim Red Triangle Movie
Year: 1962
Director: François Truffaut
Stars: Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre, Vanna Urbino, Serge Rezvani, Anny Nelsen, Sabine Haudepin, Marie Dubois, Michel Subor
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Jules (Oskar Werner) was an Austrian in Paris, while Jim (Henri Serre) was a native, and they met a short while before World War One broke out, which should really have placed them at loggerheads. But they got along famously, sharing their thoughts in the bars and cafes and hoping to meet the right girl, someone they could settle down with and make life worth living. Certainly, there were plenty of available young women around, but they all seemed to be available to everyone and nobody in particular, and none of them came across as marriage material. But then there was Catherine (Jeanne Moreau)...

You might observe François Truffaut had nothing left to prove after his debut feature The 400 Blows, an instant success that shook up filmmaking around the world, and continues to have an influence to this day. But he had the taste for filmmaking and made them for the rest of his somewhat abbreviated life, with every one of those works having at least one person who will proclaim them a masterpiece. Jules et Jim was one that seemed so revolutionary at the time in the early nineteen-sixties and again, can lay claim to having changed the way cinema was told as important people were wont to watch it and learn.

On the surface it's a film tracing a love triangle from its beginning to its inevitable resolution, as both Jules and Jim fall for Catherine, a woman unlike any they have ever met and treated by them as a fun, exotic creature to be played with and shared between them, no matter that each man covets her for himself. Yet their friendship is too strong for them to deny the other one happiness, and perhaps that is their flaw, this generosity leaves neither satisfied and Catherine least of all, though she also does her best to make both her suitors happy. That is, until she does not, and exhibits a reckless streak that may run deeper.

In truth, though it was touted as this great, free-spirited romance in its heyday, there's a lot that is disturbing about the film that has put just as many off it as have turned them on to it. It could be the presence of the war and the weight of the war dead that hangs over them after those early scenes that is the trigger for Catherine's unpredictability - she is able to rationalise her feelings, and does so in conversation, but that famous bit where she jumps spontaneously into the River Seine should tell you all you need to know about her reliability. That's despite giving Jules a daughter once they are post-war and believing they are as settled as they ever will be, and Jim coming to visit and subsequently move in.

Sometimes these characters are as impulsive as children, and they have a great rapport with the little girl, at other times they can reflect on their lives so far and have keen perception about what has taken them to this point and why they are not content. There is always something, a shaky strut in that triangle that needs to be addressed, or an outside force that bothers them on a fundamental level, that they never quite get to grips with, and its for that reason that Jules et Jim is more uneasy to watch than swoonsome. The central performances get to the heart of their personalities in a manner that does not show off, yet linger in the memory nonetheless, the thought that when committed to the unusual, Bohemian existence there is absolutely no guarantee that a more conventional set of circumstances would have made you any more happy. Jules has mixed feelings at the end, and your heart goes out to him, but it's a harsh film for all Truffaut's claims to romanticism. Music by Georges Delerue.

[The BFI release this on Blu-ray with the following features:

Presented in High Definition from a new 2K restoration
Audio commentary with Jeanne Moreau and Serge Toubiana (106 mins, 2000)
François Truffaut panel discussion (2022, 54 mins): film scholars Pasquale Iannone, Marilyn Mallia, Sonali Joshi, Ginette Vincendeau and Catherine Wheatley discuss key themes and influences in Truffaut's work
The John Player Lecture: François Truffaut (c1972, 53 mins, audio): the director discusses his films
Jeanne Moreau in Conversation (1982, 83 mins, audio): the Jules et Jim star talks with Don Allen about her life and career
Screen Epiphanies: John Hurt on Jules et Jim (2010, 8 mins): the actor on his first viewing of the film and the lasting impression it has left on him
Trailers
Stills gallery
*** First pressing only*** Illustrated booklet with essays by Pasquale Iannone and Lillian Crawford; a contemporary review from Monthly Film Bulletin, a biography of Francois Truffaut, credits and notes on the special features.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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