Jules et Jim / Jules and Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 39:16)
There it is, a monument of French cinema and I don't know what to make of it. It reminds me (appropriately enough for this marathon) of Taxi Driver, in that it's a film that often feels like a masterpiece but bothers me so much in other ways, especially (in both cases) with its ending.
I was surprised to discover that there was much more to the film than the almost-titular ménage à trois... specifically I had no idea it was a period piece, and that about 5 minutes were devoted to archival footage of WWI. As with many things here, I'm not entirely sure what to make of it, but it suggests an allegorical reading of the film I can't really find, especially with Jules and Jim being on both sides of the front, the three watching images of the Nazi autodafé and their names being out of sync with their nationality... but again, it doesn't really add up to me.
What the film has to say about marriage and free love (an anachronistic term but that is what's at play here) is similarly confusing to me, in that by the end the film almost feels conservative and/or misogynistic... I'm guessing that can't be right, but that ending really messes the film up for me... I can't help but see it as either a condemnation or a fatalistic conclusion that attempting to reinvent norms just doesn't work out or - perhaps more likely - a romantic embrace of death as a determistic outcome of a free life. Even more likely is that Truffaut means for it to be ambiguous, but the ending really seems to preclude that for me. It's so stark that I can't overlook it, and I can't really find a way to embrace it.
Formally, I'm much less conflicted. This is a bold, bold film, playful in ways that I enjoy immensely (the freeze frames when Catherine describes the faces she makes, "Pas celle-là Jim!", the way Truffaut plays around with time and handles the epistolary part of the narrative), but somehow precise and controlled at the same time. Truffaut exudes confidence in his direction and it makes the film's mood swings work... mostly (again, the ending). Even the literary aspect of it (in that it very much feels like a literary adaptation), something that annoys me quite a lot in current French cinema*, just works, again in large part thanks to that confidence. I can't say I was as impressed by Jeanne Moreau as I think I was supposed to be : she's good, but not as magnetic as in Diary of a Chambermaid, a film in which she similarly bends men to her will effortlessly and I never questioned it... not that I questioned it here exactly, but she wasn't irresistible to me either.
What really, really makes me wish I liked the whole thing more is Georges Delerue's marvelous score. "Le Tourbillon" is a standout of course, but it goes far beyond that. Tonally, the film wouldn't work without it: Delerue, more than the actors, is really the one who sells you on the emotional core of the story.
So there you are: I'm conflicted. Whatever its faults though, this is a fascinating film that I'm curious to rewatch and see what I think of in a few years, one of those cinematic landmarks where one immediately understands why it was so impactful.7/10
*thanks to Truffaut we have to suffer through the likes of Desplechin, which I know many love but I can't stand his dialogue, which is literary to a fault.