The Mark of Excellence

Jules Et Jim

Directed by Francois Truffault

> > Jun 2005

Jules Et Jim - Directed by Francois Truffault
By Michael BarclayThis continent is still trying to wrap its head around same sex marriage, so what better time than now to revisit this oh-so-French classic about a love triangle and open marriage? For all its flaws — primarily the voiceover narration, which is painful even when it's poetic — Jules Et Jim is an undeniably enriching cinematic experience. The fluid camera work feels like a dance, the Nouvelle Vague camera tricks are mixed with corny cinema clichés and Truffault's characters epitomise a Bohemian lifestyle, both in their high appreciation for the arts and their experiments in reinventing love and friendship. The film has many innate pleasures but much of its artiness seems better served in a film seminar — which, make no mistake about it, a Criterion edition always doubles as. Here we get over three hours of supplementary material, two commentaries and an excellent booklet that includes several Truffault essays and two critics' essays. In the mini-docs, there is so much general material on Truffault that one wonders what will be left for future Criterion editions of his films. But amidst all the geek-outs, only lead actress Jeanne Moreau really tackles the morality and philosophy of the film (in her commentary track). Modern audiences will no doubt read all sorts of homoeroticism in Jules and Jim's relationship, although Moreau denies that this was the case in 1962 — hard to believe, considering her character's own androgyny. Audiences reacted positively to the sexual (and arguably feminist) liberation portrayed in the first two thirds of the film, yet somehow the film's tragic ending — scored with major key, peppy music — is consistently and curiously glossed over. At the time, Truffault's film was accused of being immoral, but Moreau's mental devolution in the last ten minutes suggest that he felt like his fascination, nay, even titillation with the protagonists must be answered for and therefore gives his characters only one fatal way out. This is shocking, considering that this ending differs from the source material of the book, a semi-autobiography by Henri-Pierre Roché, which we're repeatedly reminded how much Truffault worshipped. This is remarkably under-examined in the three hours of supplementary material, but then again, even Criterion doesn't always have all the answers. Now, discuss. (Criterion/Morningstar)

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