Just after the midpoint of the 20th century, an artistic revolution began to stir in France as a new wave of artists presenting bold ideas as to the continuation of the medium began to mingle. At the dawn of the 1960s, it was Breathless directed by John Luc Godard that was cited as the film that sparked the creative movement, with the landmark film establishing the arrival of a brand new cinematic language that was pronged with exuberance and irreverence.
Godard’s statement of intent paved the way for a new cinematic establishment in France, one firmly rooted in the country’s European identity, whilst having an innovative eye on the future of the industry. Une Femme est une Femme and Vivre Sa Vie would follow for Godard, whilst his fellow national filmmakers, inspired by his ingenuity, also set off on a mission of experimentation with François Truffaut pioneering such a movement.
Having already created The 400 Blows in 1959 and lending an integral hand to the original script for Breathless, Truffaut was very much already operating in the melting pot of French New Wave when he made his masterpiece, Jules et Jim in 1962. A yearning, passionate romantic drama, Truffaut’s film was one that was traditional in its narrative yet fiercely innovative in its execution, utilising expressive camera techniques and an iconic soundtrack to firmly set its feet in the new wave identity.
Set around the time of World War 1, Truffaut’s film details the tragic love triangle between a bohemian French creative Jim (Henri Serre), his Austrian friend Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jules’ girlfriend Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Henri-Pierre Roché, the filmmaker stumbled on the book in the 1950s whereupon he paid a visit to the author who approved of Truffaut’s wishes to adapt the tale into a film.
As a result, one of the greatest French romance films was born as Truffaut told the story of an impulsive woman who seems betwixt in love, passionate for both Jules and Jim. The film is driven by such an alluring prospect too, with Jeanne Moreau providing a perfectly nuanced performance that oozes class as she constructs an enigmatic personality that seemingly cannot ever be truly understood.
Such provides the central dilemma for both titular characters who find themselves locked in an uncompromising friendship as well as an uncontrollable adoration for the third wheel in their own love story. Framed as a beautiful, sexy, intellectual, vogue young woman by Truffaut, there’s no wonder why the two leads are fighting for their affection, all whilst Moreau became a national star in her own right upon the release of the film.
Elegantly dancing around each others’ love and gentle emotions, Jules et Jim becomes a fresh, playful take on the thrills, pleasures and pitfalls of young romance that would go on to represent one of François Truffaut’s finest ever films. Going on to make the likes of Fahrenheit 451, The Wild Child and Day for Night throughout the remainder of the 20th century, Jules et Jim would represent the springboard from which François Truffaut would go on to sculpt the landscape of French cinema.