Release Date(s)1962 (February 4, 2014)
Studio(s)Les Films du Carrosse/Sédif Productions/Janus Films/MK2 (Criterion Collection - Spine #281)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
Jules and Jim (aka Jules et Jim) is one of François Truffaut’s most celebrated and beloved pieces of cinema – coming as it does from a career that spans classics like The 400 Blows, Day for Night, and Shoot the Piano Player, amongst others. Based upon the novel by Henri-Pierre Roché, its tale of love, expressing it outside of societal norms, and losing one’s self to it, struck a chord with audiences in 1962 and has continued to be well-regarded by fans of the French New Wave.
Two friends, Jules (Henri Serre) and Jim (Oscar Werner), are men from different backgrounds who forge an unlikely bond with each other. Spending most of their time enjoying their Bohemian lifestyle, they meet the beautiful and free-spirited Catherine (Jeanne Moreau), who the pair take an instant liking to, particularly Jules who eventually marries her. After serving their countries in the first World War, they all meet up again. Catherine, now unsatisfied with the marriage, sets her sights set on Jim, and the stress this puts on their relationships with each other is tested.
Influencing filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, who saw it as a stylistic inspiration for Goodfellas, Jules and Jim is inarguably one of Truffaut’s finest works. It’s alive in a way that films like it from the same period simply are not. Unorthodox in many ways, the camera is almost never still, relying instead on movement to reflect what’s going on outside and within all of the characters. Still frames, handheld cameras, and even mounting cameras to a bicycles gives the film an energy that’s constantly grabbing our attention.
Despite being what would now be considered a fairly simple and generic story, Truffaut gives it an aggressively unique viewpoint that’s often unlike many of the films that came before or after it. With amazing performances by Moreau, Werner, and Serre, as well as narration by Michel Subor and wonderful cinematography by Raoul Coutard, Jules and Jim marches forward as one of the best films of its period. A smash success upon its initial release, it lives on in the hearts of cinema lovers everywhere.
Criterion’s Dual Format release of Jules and Jim comes with a 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative. It’s a beautiful black and white transfer that’s natural and organic in appearance. Blacks and whites are well-defined and solid with excellent grayscale. The only inherent flaws are from Truffaut’s use of newsreel footage and photographs, as well as some minor speckling here and there. Otherwise, it’s clean and stable.
The sole audio option is a French mono LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. Although it represents the original narrow soundtrack, it’s quite lively with good separation for the various elements, including dialogue reproduction. The kinetic energy of the music and sound effects in the beginning of the film never results in distortion. It’s also clean without any major instances of hiss, crackle, or dropouts. In other words, a virtually perfect presentation.
The supplemental material is quite extensive. It includes an audio commentary from 1992 with Truffaut’s longtime collaborator Suzanne Schiffman, co-writer Jean Gruault, editor Claudine Bouché, and Truffaut scholar Annette Insdorf; another audio commentary from 2000 with actress Jeanne Moreau in conversation with film critic Serge Toubiana; The True Story, which features Truffaut on Roché, a 7-minute interview excerpt from the French program Bibliothèque de poche from 1966 with Truffaut reflecting on author Henri-Pierre Roché, and The Key to Jules and Jim, a 30-minute excerpt from the 1985 documentary by Thomas Honickel that explores the lives of Helene and Franz Hells and Henri-Pierre Roché, whose relationship inspired the original novel.
Also included is Truffaut on Truffaut, a set of interviews with Truffaut discussing the film and his working methods (Cinéastes de notre temps from 1965, L’invité du dimanche from 1969, Truffaut and Roud from 1977, AFI’s Dialogue on Film from 1979, and Truffaut and Phillipe from 1980); a 19-minute interview from 2003 with cinematographer Raoul Coutard; a 21-minute interview from 1986 with co-writer Jean Gruault, which was originally conducted for the Rainer Gansera documentary Working with Truffaut; a 23-minute conversation from 2004 between film scholars Robert Stam and Dudley Andrew about the importance of the film; the original trailer; 2 DVDs featuring all of the same content; and a 34-page insert booklet containing the essays On Jules and Jim by John Powers and Henri-Pierre Roché Revisited by Truffaut, original script notes about the film by Truffaut, and restoration details.
Upping the ante on their previously impressive DVD release, Criterion has given Jules and Jim the deluxe treatment once again. It’s an amazing and absolute essential release for film fans. Highly recommended!
– Tim Salmons