A FilmExposed Film Review
Dir: FRANÇOIS TRUFFAUT, 1962, France, 105 mins, French with subtitles
Cast: JEANNE MOREAU, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre
Forty-one years before LOUIS GARREL and MICHAEL PITT shared the best of Eva Green in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers (2003), François Truffaut released this seminal manage a trios, undoubtedly his best-loved film, and universally regarded as the pinnacle of the French Nouvelle Vague. Adapted from the autobiographical novel of 75 year-old Henri-Pierre Poche, it follows the lives of two best friends from pre-war Paris to the 30’s depression and the rise of Hitler. As with many of Truffaut’s films, to criticise is to ostracize oneself from the film community, and although the narrative could be accused of dragging in places, to question the Emperor’s clothes is simply forbidden.
With a swift voiceover, reminiscent of old newsreel footage, we observe the formation of a life-long friendship between Jules (Werner) and Jim (Serre). As is so often the case, their idyllic bachelor lifestyles are quickly torn apart by the arrival of a beautiful femme fatale, Catherine (MOREAU). She’s an unmanageable Casanovess - tempestuous, wilful, and demanding.
Of the two doting men, Jules is her choice, and Jim accepts defeat graciously. The couple wed, but maternal bliss is short lived. Catherine craves freedom and shuns domesticity, insisting that ‘one is never completely in love for more than a moment’. Nevertheless, her fragile psyche demands the stable presence of Jules as a secure nest to which she can always return. On his friend’s request, Jim attempts to tame the Shrew, but too many cooks never a good broth made.
While the tragi-comic narrative is jolly enough (an allegorical reflection on the fractured state of Europe between the two wars), there’s nothing outstanding in terms of plot or dialogue. Truffaut’s enduring success is his film’s gripping physical presence, its technical chutzpah of freeze frames, jump cuts, frame shrinking, and contemporary footage, and its capacity to winsomely muse on the past while driving cinema forward.