Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jules and Jim (Francois Truffaut)

A bridge run.

If one would want to witness the sheer complexity of love without the utter abundance of unnecessary despair, then I believe that one should not look any further than this film. Although a visually joyful film, "Jules and Jim", based on the novel by Henri-Pierre Roche, is ironically all about the slow decay of a freewheeling love affair. The film's central focus, of course as suggested by the title, revolves around a friendship between two men and how time (or war) can never undo such a strong knot. But then again, the film is also about how a friendship can easily fall prey to the idiocy of romance, the bipolarity of love and the captivating beauty of a woman before they can even know what has hit them.
Effortlessly becoming the best of friends immediately after their first meeting, Jules and Jim's friendship is suddenly drawn into a moody yet, to a certain extent, wonderful ride of both love and life via an adventurously unpredictable woman named Catherine (perhaps a prelude to the character trope we now know as 'The Manic Pixie Dream Girl'). 
Francois Truffaut, a most visually playful auteur, is dead set on exploring love with a sure grasp of irony and relentless energy. "Jules and Jim", with its constant visual frolics and overall feel, is really hard to categorize within a single genre. Part-comedy, part-drama and part-romance (with some hints of war-time dramatics), the film is everything a cinephile can ask for. For the entirety of the film's almost 2 hours of running time, I was just engrossed with what I'm seeing, and it's not just about the film's pioneering visuals. Even when the three central characters are just talking, exchanging reflective remarks and laughing, one can still sense the same tight energy that was fully evident in the film's fast-lipped narration, silent film-like music and playful cinematography. This is definitely because of how well-realized and inspired the performances in the film really are, specifically by the centerpiece threesome comprised of Oskar Werner (Jules), Henri Serre (Jim) and Jeanne Moreau (Catherine). 
Despite the film tackling a relatively heavy-handed tale about romantic deceit, Truffaut was able to inject a sense of childish gayness in it all. And it is in this childishness that the film was able to separate itself from other films of its kind. 
For me, what makes "Jules and Jim" stand out and be rightfully heralded as one of the best films of all time is how it has took on infidelity and romantic apprehension with such carefree warmth and transcendental tenderness. Truffaut, one of the ultimate film intellectuals in cinema history, has relied solely on one concept and it has repaid him and "Jules and Jim" a hundredfold: Optimism. 
Even in the face of tragedy and melancholy, Truffaut was hopeful enough to make us feel that the pursuit of love, no matter the context, the situation and even the consequences, is something that is just truly wonderful to be denied an entry into our hearts. But in the end, he was also able to highlight the fact that obsession, even in the context of love, is an entirely different matter. "Is it the pursuit of an elusive, on and off love or the subtle pains of moving on?" That, for me, is the film's ultimate question. "Jules and Jim" is about how something's got to give.


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