Entertainment :: Movies

Jules and Jim

by Jake Mulligan
Contributor
Saturday Feb 8, 2014
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The ’m’-word - masterpiece - is thrown around all too often in film circles. The very definition of the word disagrees with how often it’s deployed. A masterwork, in theory, is much more than the work of a master. It must be a film where every single distinctive thing about a great cinema artist comes together, an entire oeuvre encapsulated in 2 hours or so - a lifetime in a movie. They don’t come around often, and roughly 97 percent of the time you’ll see that word used online, it’s unwarranted.

When it comes to Francois Truffaut’s "Jules and Jim," though, it’s hard to dispute deployment of the word. In fact, it’s hard to avoid it. The picture brings together everything distinctive about the French filmmaker’s career: his pet themes (fatalistic romance, the impossibility of long-term bliss among two people, the intersection of micro private lives and macro national histories,) his re-wiring of film grammar (the cut-cut-cut away, voice-over laden construction of the film’s opening segment famously inspired "Goodfellas"), his freewheeling directorial approach (the film’s moments of glee - the titular trio sprinting across Parisian locations - remain in our minds as much, if not more, than the melodramatic romantic triangle that defines it’s narrative.) This is more than a Truffaut film, it is the Truffaut film.

Criterion’s release lives up to the ’masterpiece’ standard set by the film, and quite gloriously so. You’ll spend three times as long digging through this disc (as well as the accompanying booklet, which includes numerous texts written by Truffaut himself) as you did watching the film. First off, there’s one audio commentary - put together with quotes from the film’s co-writer, along with Truffaut collaborators and scholars - sourced from an early 90s release of the film, as well as a second (subtitled) recorded by star Jeanne Moreau.

The m-word - masterpiece - is thrown around all too often in film circles. Here, it’s justified.

The commentaries are just the kick-off. There’s also a short interview with Truffaut on the topic of Henri-Pierre Roche, the author of the novel "Jules and Jim" as well as of the novel that would later become Truffaut’s "Two English Girls". Then there’s another half-hour documentary focused on Roche’s novel, "The Key to ’Jules and Jim’," which speaks to individuals related to the autobiographical events that informed the novel, among others. To wrap up the Roche portion of the special features, there’s an interview from a French TV program, about 10 minutes in length, where Truffaut details his manner of adaptation.

The next crop of extra features focus around interviews that discuss the film proper: there’s a half-hour talk with Truffaut and Moreau, also from French television; followed by a small piece with Truffaut at the 1977 New York Film Festival; a 1979 Truffaut interview from the AFI; and a 1980 chat sourced from a French radio program. Following that are three more interviews: a 10-year’s-old chat with legendary cinematographer Raoul Coutard, a talk with co-writer Jean Grualt, and a conversation among Truffaut scholars revolving around the themes of "Jules and Jim."

All these extras make this disc (previously available on DVD) even more than ’just’ the definitive release of "Jules and Jim." Alongside Criterion’s "Adventures of Antoine Doinel" set - also, hopefully, coming to Blu-ray soon - this release provides all the context you’ll ever need to obtain a handle on the works of Truffaut. Fitting for the film that encapsulates his life work - this disc, extras considered, may as well be The Truffaut Bible.

"Jules and Jim"
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
Criterion.com

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