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Rainer Werner Fassbinder
El Hedi ben Salem,
In Paris, before WWI, two friends, Jules (Austrian) and Jim (French) fall in love with the same woman, Catherine. But Catherine loves and marries Jules. After the war, when they meet again in Germany, Catherine starts to love Jim... This is the story of three people in love, a love which does not affect their friendship, and about how their relationship evolves with the years. Written by
Time and revisionist critics have tried to tarnish the gleam of Truffaut's final masterpiece - citing its apparent misogyny and apoliticism; but for some of us, 'Jules et Jim' is the unforgettable film that opened the gates to both European film, and the great masters of American cinema like Hitchcock, Hawks and Ray.
'Jules et Jim' is, along with 'Citizen Kane', THE vindication of the pleasures of cinematic form: the first half especially, in its rush of narrative registers and technical exuberance, is unparalleled in modern film. This isn't mere trickery - the use of paintings, books, plays, dreams, conversations, documentary footage, etc., as well as the different ways of telling a story through film, all point to the movie's theme - how do you represent people and the world in art without destroying them? Or is art the only to save people and life from extinction?
The foregrounding of theatricality, acting, disguises, pseudonyms, games, works-within-the-work, all point to the high modernism in which the film is set, when the old certainties about identity and place were being destroyed by the Great War. In fact the film could be considered Cubist in the way it uses film form to splice up and rearrange images, space, characters, viewpoints.
Truffaut's film is a beautiful elegy about time: the historical time heading towards destruction in the shape of the Nazis, and the circular time of love, obsession and art. These times struggle in the film's structure, history zipping past years in the framing, Parisian sections, and days stretching out interminably in the central rural rondelay.
Far from being misogynistic, the film places Catherine's speech about 'grains of sand' at its philosophical heart. AND she's played by Jeanne Moreau, the most honest and human of all great actresses.
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