Friday, June 03, 2011

Jules and Jim

I just saw 'Jules and Jim' last night on Netflix. It was directed by Francois Truffaut in 1962 and is considered a classic of the French New Wave. I didn't get it.

What was so wonderful about Catherine that either of them would have been so devoted to her and willing to obey her every whim? And willing to put up with her childishness and self-centeredness? Why would Gilberte be such a hapless doormat for Jim?

So many men had died in the War that there were far more women than men in both France and Germany in the 1920's. Given the gender imbalance why would Jules, Jim, and Albert and all the others have been following Catherine around like dogs following a bitch in heat? She was far from the only woman available. There would have been plenty of women interested in them and they would soon have been distracted from Catherine and her verbal abuse and craziness.

French women are often shown in film as arbitrary, childishly unto insanely self-absorbed and willful and whimsical. They are shown as under the impression that being pretty and sexy entitles them to indulge every momentary whim, regardless of the consequences to themselves or others, even unto Catherine's pointless murder-suicide of herself and Jim.

Real Frenchwomen are not like that at all. Real Frenchwomen strike me as practical and reasonable. French housewives are considered the very model of thriftiness and prudence. I wonder if the film image of Frenchwomen as snotty willful children is not a result of the continuing impact of 'Jules and Jim' on subsequent French cinema.

The contrast of the ease, simplicity, and happiness of pre-War France with the tortured complexity of post-War seems exaggerated unto silly. Whether it is to be regarded as realistic or as a mere representation of the director's feelings, it is stupid either way. Life is not a cartoon.

However much it is a beloved classic of the French New Wave, 'Jules and Jim' doesn't work and I don't recommend it.


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