The Film (5/5)
In a career loaded with cinematic masterpieces, Francois Truffaut's Jules and Jim might actually be considered his greatest accomplishment. I do have to admit like bias toward this opinion, as this film has consistently been in my top 10 favorite films of all time since I first viewed it almost a decade ago.
The title of the film Jules and Jim describes 2/3 of the trio of main characters. We have Austrian Jules, and Parisian Jim. The two meet and quickly become lifelong best friends in early 20th century Paris. During this time the pair live a mostly bohemian life style. This is changed when the two return from an island vacation where they viewed a statue with a beautiful and iconic visage. The two find the human form of that face in what could be considered the films central character Catherine. As the title is Jules and Jim one could easily be mistaken that the film centers completely around them, however, in many ways this film is Catherine's movie. The pair become obsessed with her, and their duo becomes a trio.
However, the trio is not to last as Jules and Catherine marry, and they are separated from Jim by involvement in the First World War. The two's greatest nightmare is to come across each other in the battlefield, and fortunately they do not. After surviving the trauma of the war, Jim goes to visit Jules and Catherine at their home in Austria. However, things are not ideal in their relationship. Catherine has not settled into the domestic life, and continues to try and live her free-wheeling bohemian existence leaving her family, and shacking up with former lovers. It is then decided to keep them as a trio that Jim would take on a relationship with Catherine. However, unlike Jules he is unwilling to succumb to Catherine's every desire, which upsets her, and causes a conflict between the three.
Jules and Jim sees Francois Truffaut adapting the biographical novel by Henri-Pierre Roche. As far as adaptations go it is fairly faithful to the source material, while managing to create a wonderful cinematic atmosphere. The performances across the board are absolutely fantastic, the main trio of Oskar Werner, Jeannie Moreau, and Henri Sierre have excellent on screen chemistry, and bring their characters to full three-dimensional life on screen. These characters are brought to visual life with a style provided by Truffaut's skillful direction, that shows an energy and maturity of a filmmaker that has directed beyond the 3 films Truffaut had completed by this point. Of course, his style is brought to life by the handiwork of cinematographer Raoul Coutard, whose work is as integral the visual style of the New Wave as the director's themselves.
Criterion brings Jules and Jim to Blu-ray in an absolutely perfect 2:39:1 MPEG-4 encoded 1080p transfer. The transfer has great depth, and detail, much more is revealed than in the DVD transfer from nearly a decade past. Contrast is excellent, and there is a healthy natural grain structure at play throughout.
The audio is presented in an LPCM 1.0 French track that sounds as good as the film looks with dialogue coming through clearly as does the films score. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Criterion have put together a truly epic slate of extras for their release of Jules and Jim. We have 2 commentary tracks, multiple interviews with Truffaut, a 20 minute interview with Raoul Coutard. We also get a section of interviews called the True Story where we get segments from a documentary on the film that goes into detail about the real life relationship of the 3 leads, and also another interview with Truffaut where he discusses the book. We also have an interview with Jean Gruault that discusses his part in writing the film, and finally an interview with 2 film historians about the film. The set is rounded off by a trailer, and a booklet of liner notes.
Jules and Jim may be Truffaut's finest hour in a career positively brimming with them. The A/V on this disc is absolutely perfect, and the extras really push this over the top. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.