François Truffaut's third feature, though it's named for the two best friends who become virtually inseparable in pre-World War I Paris, is centred on Jeanne Moreau's Catherine, the most mysterious, enigmatic woman in his career-long gallery of rich female portraits. Adapted from the novel by Henri-Pierre Roché, Truffaut's picture explores the 30-year friendship between Austrian biologist Jules (Oskar Werner) and Parisian writer Jim (Henri Serre) and the love triangle formed when the alluring Catherine makes the duo a trio. Spontaneous and lively, a woman of intense but dynamic emotions, she becomes the axle on which their friendship turns as Jules woos her and they marry, only to find that no one man can hold her. Directed in bursts of concentrated scenes interspersed with montage sequences and pulled together by the commentary of an omniscient narrator, Truffaut layers his tragic drama with a wealth of detail. He draws on his bag of New Wave tricks for the carefree days of youth--zooms, flash cuts, freeze frames--that disappear as the marriage disintegrates during the gloom of the postwar years. Werner is excellent as Jules, a vibrant young man whose slow, melancholy slide into emotional compromise is charted in his increasingly sad eyes and resigned face, while Serre plays Jim as more of an enigma, guarded and introspective. But both are eclipsed in the glare of Moreau's radiant Catherine: impulsive, demanding, sensual, passionate, destructive, and ultimately unknowable. A masterpiece of the French New Wave and one of Truffaut's most confident and accomplished films. --Sean Axmaker
Jules et Jim
is Francois Truffaut's intense, beautiful, enigmatic film about the lifelong friendship between two writers--French novelist Jim (Henri Serre) and Austrian children's author Jules (Oskar Werner)--and their mutual love for the eccentric Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). Even its darkest moments, Jules et Jim
is movingly alluring as the friendship between the two men paints a meaningful portrait of human understanding and compassion. Like the similarly themed Two English Girls
, Truffaut's film is based on a novel by Henri-Pierre Roche.