This is a reflection on François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, a French New Wave drama released back in 1962. Frankly, I’m definitely much more of a Truffaut person than a Godard person.
While Jean-luc Godard criticizes everyone and everything, François Truffaut celebrates the people and the lives around him. He‘s interested in people, in their lives, their stories, and the collection of little moments that make up their lifetime of good memories, even if occasionally, such as is the case with this film, they are inevitably doomed to a tragic end.
With that said, I’m totally against the depiction of Catherine in this film. We are aware that Jules and Jim go through numerous changes and breaking points. The initially naive Jules transforming into a defeatist. The free-spirited Jim showing his vulnerability over the course of the film. However, Catherine essentially stays changeless. In fact less and less attempt is made to help us understand her motives as the film progresses, and she becomes nothing more than the caricature of a twisted and vengeful siren (seriously, why does she even tell Jules to look at the end, when the grudge she bears are for Jim?).
Despite Truffaut’s attempt to be progressive in his depiction of women in film at the time, all of the female characters in this film end up being mere caricatures.
It also doesn’t help that pretty much everything past the one hour mark focuses heavily on how the two-dimensional Catherine influences and transforms the lives of both men, which makes the film feel quite draggy. Despite Truffaut’s attempt to be progressive in his depiction of women in film at the time, all of the female characters in this film end up being mere caricatures.
Regardless, the first hour of the film deserves a lot of praises for its innovative filming and editing techniques, playful out-of-the-box narrative, multilayered but always subtle dialogue, and the wonderful friendship of both persona. Those truly stand the test of time.
Jules and Jim is a film adaptation of a book with the same title written by Henri-Pierre Roché 9 years before. The film won the 1962 Grand Prix of French film prizes (the Étoile de Cristal) along with Best Actress category (Jeanne Moreau). Physical copies and streaming are available on Criterion Collection and Criterion Channel.
Yusgunawan Marto, Jakarta Cinema Club
Yusgunawan is a Director/Cinematographer and senior writer at Jakarta Cinema Club