Jules and Jim

This is an adaptation of a semi-biographical novel, so it should be closer to realism than the genre exercise of Shoot the Piano Player. The friendship between Jules and Jim is believable – both in the manic throes of their first meeting and their subsequent struggles over loving the same woman. But Jeanne Moreau is less a person than a force of nature that sweeps people away. Her capacity and appetite for love, both affection and sex, is insatiable. And the deprivation of it drives her mad. Truffaut and his two male heroes cannot resist indulging her every whim, even the most bizarre. It gets to the point where she threatens Jim with a gun and yet at their next meeting he still jumps in her car as if nothing has happened. Her madness is catching, her obsessions become our obsessions. She is beautiful and we cannot resist.

The blistering energy of the first hour is what the film is known for, where cuts are rapid and the voiceover narrates at triple time. But I'm old and found the love triangle that develops in the middle part of the film a lot more interesting. The film slows down a bit and allows the two male leads to put in some great work depicting the effort and labour of keeping Catherine happy. For all his formal ingenuity and cinematic tricks – and this has plenty of wild crane shots, outre wipes and extended tracking shots – the film works because the actors manage to realise what this bizarre menage a trois might be like. Until the very end, that is. As Moreau's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic I stopped believing in her ability to charm the men around her. Truffaut's idolatry defeated me, and the absurd and abrupt ending to the love triangle fell very flat. I get the sense that Truffaut relies on random death to supply the finale of his films almost as a reflex. In Jules and Jim, the ultimate fates of the characters diminishes rather than elevates the passion and strife of their relationship.

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