This year sees the 50th anniversary of one of France’s best loved and most influential films; Jules et Jim. François Truffaut is the ultimate poster boy of the French New Wave movement that climaxed at the end of the fifties and it is in these early films of his such asJules et Jim where genius is ever present for all to see. Based on a book by Henri-Pierre Roche that Truffaut found in an old bookshop in Paris, the story is said to have many biographical elements and relate heavily to the author’s real life.
The film itself is a reasonably familiar love triangle scenario or ménage a trios but it is the execution of the film that makes the relatively simple narrative flutter by like a warm, summer breeze. Mixing pretty much every new editing technique there was, Truffaut filmed his story using everything from freeze framing to inventive screen wipes making it instantly exciting to watch. Though the narrative is relatively straightforward, the emotional landscape of the film is not so clear-cut. The relative ambiguities on show hint at possible tunnels for the characters to stroll down making it difficult to know who is being left out of the triangle even when two of the characters are married and with child.
Tension is continually heightened as it is clear Catherine, the love of both Jules and Jim, is not happy with her decisions to settle down with the former, perhaps reflecting life’s often employed belief of the grass being greener on the other side. However Catherine’s actions become desperately extreme and the tragic finale for the three characters is sadly affecting yet also wonderfully poignant.
Truffaut was extremely proud of Jules et Jim. Legendary French director Jean Renoir supposedly wrote a letter praising the film, which Truffaut then kept on him for years after. Renoir was perfectly right in his admiration for the film. Even now, fifty years on, it is not only an extremely entertaining and beautiful piece of celluloid, it is also proof that good cinema never dies.