More on French New Wave and Jules and Jim

More on French New Wave and Jules and Jim

"The Telluride Film Festival Cinematique at the Wilkinson Public Library" began in January with a quietly elegant film called "The Gleaners," (2000) about people who recycle the detritus of everyday life. The director is "The Mother of French New Wave," Agnes Varda, also a close friend of film scholar/critic/teacher/TFF friend Howie Movshovitz, who moderated.

In a related podcast interview on Telluride Inside…and Out, Movshovitz deferred to Varda in defining French New Wave: "Filmmakers under 30, budgets under 30 million francs  – old francs –  and no access to lighting."

The French New Wave is to film what Impressionism was to fine art: a seismic shift in the landscape caused by the movement of young filmmakers away from literary masterpieces out into the street. "It was as if someone had opened the window and let air into the room," said Movshovitz." Without the French New Wave there would be no independent film."

In many way, "Jules and Jim"  is the apotheosis of the genre.

The film's subject matter –  the tragi-comedy of life played out over 20 years in a love triangle, Jules, Jim, and Catherine –  is based on an even darker book by Henri-Pierre Roche, which a 23-year-old Truffaut, then a young critic, discovered in a Paris bookstore. Six years later after rereading and memorizing passages, he made his movie (1962), and Sixties audiences not only flocked to see it; they wanted to live it. (And they did, in a post-Woodstock world of drugs, sex and rock 'n roll.)

The runaway star of the film is Jeanne Moreau as Catherine, the object of desire, who embodies Bob Dylan's lyric: "Aches like a woman. Breaks like a little girl." This protofeminist exudes both strong-minded independence and childlike vulnerability. Her caprices are the film's engine, its raison d'etre.

Technically, "Jules and Jim" uses New Wave signature devices such as freeze frames, jump cuts, swirling, dizzying, panoramic camera moves that roll up into an elliptical joy ride and stylistic brilliance.

"Jules and Jim" begins in a bohemian fog just before WWI and ends in the horrific searchlight of Nazism. While its context is well-defined and documented, its themes endure, which is why this film remains a classic.

For more information about the film, including a trailer, go to this New York Times website.

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