Part of the François Truffaut: For the Love of Films season at the BFI, Jules et Jim is a black and white French classic from one of the most influential directors of the French New Wave that brings a fascinating mélange of love, romance and friendship to the screen.
Set around 1912 before the outbreak of war it follows the friendship of Jules (Oscar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre) bohemian writers who strike up a friendship living in Paris. Jules is a fair haired Austrian who has adopted France as his homeland whilst Jim is his newly found friend, taller and slightly more refined, who introduces Jules into the Parisian society. They very much enjoy each others company sharing similar interests in language and literature and most notably the pursuit of female affections.
Their various dating experiments lead them to Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) who they become completely captivated by with her looks and her charismatic behaviour. Jules ends up marrying her but it’s not before too long that the three of them move in together and it’s clear Jules and Jim have shared more than just friendship.
The third feature film from François Truffaut it’s a fascinating observation of love’s relationships and the affairs of the heart shown through the free spirited love adventures of Jules and Jim. Truffaut whilst showing a good command of classic film storytelling technique, expertly put together by cinematographer Raoul Coutard using cinescope, also experiments with the occasional break from convention making unusual edits like freezing the frame and there are further eccentricities throughout like the parodying of action films for their over use of guns and violence, even back then in 1962.
The film score is charmingly composed by George Delerue that brings together the emotional highs and lows amongst the conviviality, joie de vivre and passionate rivalry. There’s a cameo appearance from famous French crooner Boris Bassiak who also plays another love interest of Catherine’s in a film that openly subscribes to the bed hopping promiscuity of relationships.
Truffaut’s depiction of this ménage à trois is inspired by the semi-autobiographical novel from Henri-Pierre Roché, which compelled him to attempt to make such a film. Packing a lifetime of romance and passion into a story that is a curious ode to friendship and the fleeting changes of the heart.
Film: Jules et Jim
Director: François Truffaut
Genre: Drama, Romance
Stars: Jeanne Moreau, Oscar Werner, Henri Serre
Run time: 1hr 36min