Jules and Jim: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

January 30, 2014 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre) come from different countries, but there is a bond between them as artists and friends that exists and is very strong. If that bond weren’t as powerful as it was, their friendship might have fallen apart when fate threw a beautiful woman in their collective path. This woman is fun, wild, and very attractive and right off the bat both men fall helplessly in love with her. This could cause a rift between some friends, but Jules and Jim seem to kick back and let the good times roll. While one is sure to have his heart broken, the two don’t allow competition to enter into the relationship too much. Soon enough the woman, Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) falls in love with Jules and the two become married after some time. As time passes Jules and Jim become separated, but time soon reunites the three friends and they assume their fun times once again. But all things must come to an end and this relationship is no exception…

I know many of you out there despise subtitles and/or have a general dislike for foreign films, but I want to implore everyone to view this movie at least once. Of course I’d recommend all of Truffaut’s movies, but this one is so easy to like and holds a mass appeal some of his other works don’t have. This is a movie that holds an intense beauty within it, not just the visuals either but just the texture of the story and skills of the actors and director. Sometimes it all comes together just right and this movie is a perfect example of how good a film can be when that happens. The relationships between the characters seem so real and honest, I am sucked in every time I see this film. I mean imagine the best chemistry you can think of from a movie, then triple that and that’s what you’ll find here. Add in the terrific way Truffaut captures it all and you’ve got an effective and moving motion picture.

This film was directed by Francois Truffaut, who has a resume loaded from top to bottom with masterful and powerful movies. I couldn’t pick out one movie as his best because of how good so many of them are, but Jules and Jim is one of my favorites from his resume. This film is so graceful and fluid it sometimes it amazes me, the more I watch it the more I am convinced this is one of the most beautiful films of all time. As much a work of poetry as a movie, Jules and Jim is a sight to behold for all fans of cinema without a doubt. I could talk for hours and hours, but I’ll leave it at saying this is a must see movie in all respects. If you want to see more of Truffaut’s films I recommend Stolen Kisses, The 400 Blows, Confidentially Yours, Shoot The Piano Player, and Love On The Run. The three leads in this film are tremendous and bring their characters to life like few others have done on film. Oskar Werner (Fahrenheit 451, Ship Of Fools), Jeanne Moreau (Ever After, A Hundred And One Nights), and Henri Serre (The Satin Slipper, Fire and Ice) all turn in spectacular performances that seem to get better with every viewing.

Video: How’s it look?

Criterion put out a standard DVD of this film in 2005 and that same DVD has been included in this 3 disc set.  Having said that, my only experience (until now) has been via the old, non-anamorphic presentation from an earlier version.  Criterion has taken the film, given it a new 2K HD transfer and the Blu-ray is nothing short of stunning.  Some of my favorite films are framed in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and there’s just something about a black and white film framed on a widescreen television that raises my pulse.  I really don’t know why, but it just does.  Contrast has been adjusted from the previous version, black levels are strong and solid and gone are most elements of grain, dirt and debris.  By no means is this a perfect transfer, but the improvement is noticeable. As usual, Criterion has outdone themselves.

Audio: How’s it sound?

In addition to a new transfer, Criterion has also included an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. While it’s not something that will challenge the limits of your system, I felt that this is a much more natural and fluid sound that in the previous version.  There’s really no “hiss” or anything that’s associated with movies of this age and if done right (and this is), mono films can pack just as much of a punch as anything else out there.  The movie is in French with English subtitles, for those that are wondering.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The supplements, while robust, appear to be the same ones that were included on the previously-released DVD. Still, let’s dive in and check them out.

  • Audio Commentaries – Two audio commentaries are included: one featuring coscreenwriter Jean Gruault, longtime François Truffaut collaborator Suzanne Schiffman, editor Claudine Bouché, and film scholar Annette Insdorf; the other featuring actor Jeanne Moreau and Truffaut biographer Serge Toubiana. Admittedly I didn’t listen to both in their entirety, but I was amazed at how interesting they were and how passionate Jeanne Moreau was about her work and her character in the film.
  • Excerpts from The Key to “Jules and Jim” – A 1985 documentary about author Henri-Pierre Roché that chronicles the real-life relationships that inspired the book and subsequent film.
  • Interviews – Both Jean Gruault and cinematographer Raoul Coutard are interviewed here and reflect on their approaches to the film.
  • Conversations – Robert Stam and Dudley Andrew spent around 20 minutes discussing the main themes and ideas in the film.
  • Cinéastes de notre temps – Excerpt from a 1965 episode of the French TV program dedicated to Truffaut.
  • L’invité du dimanche – A segment from a 1969 episode of the French TV show featuring Truffaut, Moreau, and filmmaker Jean Renoir is shown.
  •  New York Film Festival – Excerpts from Truffaut’s first appearance on American television, a 1977 interview with New York Film Festival director Richard Roud
  •  American Film Institute Seminar – Excerpts from a 1979 American Film Institute seminar given by Truffaut are shown.
  • Audio interview  – Francios Truffaut’s interview circa 1980 can be heard in its entirety.
  •  Theatrical Trailer
  • Booklet – Features an essay by critic John Powers, a 1981 piece by Truffaut on Roché, and script notes from Truffaut to Gruault

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