Jules et Jim (1962)
Directed by François Truffaut

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * ½

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From the time of their meeting in 1912, two men, Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre), share a close friendship. Shortly before the First World War, Jules marries Catherine (Jeanne Moreau), a wilful young women the two men have befriended, but, after the war has ended, his relationship with her deteriorates rapidly. When Jim comes to stay with the couple and their daughter, he begins a relationship of his own with Catherine, having been urged to do so by Jules, who hopes that if his wife is involved with his friend she will not leave him. Catherine's carefree behavior, however, soon creates further difficulties.

François Truffaut's Jules et Jim is a well made film, but it is hardly the masterpiece it is often described as being. The movie is, simply, never so deeply affecting that the viewer is enthralled by the story the director tells. Despite Truffaut's failure to involve the viewer in either the joys or the sorrows of Jules and Jim's friendship, he does, however, let the moviegoer into their world so that he is, at the very least, intrigued by the melodramatic events depicted in the film.

In fact, Jules' absolute, unquestioning, and unshakable love for Catherine is successfully evoked, as are the sad consequences of her relationships with both her husband and his best friend. Although the director presents Catherine as a complex individual, not as a villain, he does allow the viewer to see the suffering her actions cause Jules as a result of his love for her. Truffaut also makes clear how Jules' own emotions keep him imprisoned in that relationship, even though it brings him nothing but pain.

The complex and sorrowful feelings that arise from the bond connecting Jules and Jim as a consequence of both men's involvement with Catherine are possibly even more moving. Sadly, however, their friendship with one another remains somewhat vague and unsatisfying. The formation and development of that relationship is quickly narrated at the beginning of the movie, but once the viewer has been informed of the bond joining the two men, the director does little else to reveal its depths. Instead of showing the emotions that draw the pair to one another, Truffaut takes their relationship as being understood by the viewer and focuses on the effect their involvement with Catherine has on it. We are saddened by the events related in the film, but, never being completely submerged in the lives of the protagonists, we never feel an intense sense of tragedy. Despite this, Jules et Jim is always engaging and pleasant to watch.

Fortunately, the movie has a number of appealing qualities in addition to the story it tells. It is universally well acted and nicely filmed. The three leads give good if not brilliant performances, and Truffaut displays real talent in his visual evocations of feelings of intimacy, of the beauty of the countryside, and the vibrancy of life in the city. The director's use of narrated sequences of brief clips is especially skillfully done, and these are, as a consequence, among the most enjoyable parts of the movie. The film is never truly beautiful, but it is always appealing.

While Jules et Jim is a good movie, it is never deeply affecting, stunningly filmed, or wonderfully performed. It is well made, but nothing more.

Review by Keith Allen

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