At this point, what can one really add to the discussion concerning Jules and Jim from legendary director Francois Truffaut? A movie of this sort is a product of its time, as this was made by a filmmaker exploring the medium with the zeal of a child, and telling a story that’s uniquely European and a clear reflection of a different era and society. It’s remarkable to observe Truffaut’s camera style in Jules and Jim; his aesthetic is a textbook example of the French New Wave movement in cinema, very ahead of its time, seemingly obsessed with momentum and kineticism, as fully alive as the passionate characters that consume the narrative. The various forms of imagery that Truffaut incorporated into his storytelling during Jules and Jim sort of feels like a precursor to the more extreme, kaleidoscopic aesthetic of 90’s-era Oliver Stone, with Truffaut opting for stock/newsreel footage, freeze frames, rapid-paced dolly shots, voiceover, and a seemingly freewheeling style. Jeanne Moreau, Henri Serre, and Oskar Werner basically projected every single emotion on screen during the course of this film; there’s vulnerability about each one of them that makes them all so empathetic despite some of the decisions that they all make throughout the poignant, funny, and finally tragic story.
The film’s energetic cinematographer, Raoul Coutard, had previously worked with Jean-Luc Godard, and was famous for using the lightest cameras possible at the time, in order to approximate a very organic and loose filmmaking approach. And because of this, there’s a nimble quality to the aesthetic, with the camera bouncing from one place to the next, and in tandem with the jaunty editing patterns provided by cutter Claudine Bouché, Jules and Jim radiates with a fizzy sense of life that runs up against honest sadness and moments of personal uncertainty. The gorgeous swirls of music came courtesy of master composer Georges Delerue; this film wouldn’t be all that it is without his uncanny melodic sense. The story, which involves a passionate love triangle between two men and one very free-spirited woman, is timeless romantic material, with an appropriately downbeat ending that feels justified and emotionally cathartic. The Criterion Collection Blu-ray is as crisp and clean as one could ever ask, with the beautiful black and white film stock perfectly capturing all of the emotions and thematic shadings on display. I’ve never seen a movie that feels as lighthearted as this one while still exploring deep, intimate, very dramatic life challenges that could hardly be described as easy-going.