Jules and Jim  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Jules and Jim (French: Jules et Jim) is a 1962 French film directed by François Truffaut and based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Henri-Pierre Roché.

Truffaut described this tale of a love triangle as 'a perfect hymn to love and perhaps to life'. He came across it during the mid 1950s whilst browsing through some secondhand books in Paris and later befriended the elderly author who approved of the young director's attempt to translate the words on the page into celluloid images.



The film is set before, during and after the First World War in several different parts of France, Austria, and Germany. Jules (Oskar Werner) is a shy writer from Austria who forges a friendship with the more extroverted Jim (Henri Serre). They share an interest in the world of the arts and the Bohemian lifestyle. Early in the movie, they become entranced with a statue of a goddess, smiling serenely.

After encounters with several women, they meet the free-spirited, capricious Catherine (Jeanne Moreau), a dead-ringer for the statue with the serene smile. Although she begins a relationship with Jules, both men are affected by her presence and her attitude toward life. A few days before the declaration of war, Jules and Catherine move to Austria to get married. The men both serve during the war; however, they serve on opposite sides and each fears throughout the conflict that he might have killed the other.

After the separation that occurs during the war, Jim visits, and later stays, with Jules and Catherine in Austria. Jules and Catherine have a little daughter, Sabine, but the marriage is a miserable one. Catherine torments and punishes Jules with numerous affairs, and once left him and their daughter for six months. She flirts with and attempts to seduce Jim, who has never forgotten her. Jules, desperate that Catherine not leave him forever, gives his blessing for Jim to marry Catherine so that he may continue to visit them and see her. For a while, the four of them live happily together in the same chalet in Austria, until tensions between Jim and Catherine arise because of their inability to have a child. Jim leaves Catherine and returns to Paris, and after several exchanges of letters, Catherine breaks off their relationship. Jim moves in with his lover,Gilberte, in Paris, yet returns to the chalet once more to try to have a child with Catherine. However, the couple is not successful in their attempts to conceive. Jim moves back to Paris another time, and receives word from Catherine that she is pregnant. Jim does not believe her and writes her that he cannot come to the chalet because he has a grave illness that keeps him in bed. Eventually, Catherine claims that her child has died "early in the womb" and Jim's and Catherine's relationship is now over.

After a time, Jim runs into Jules in Paris. He finds that Jules and Catherine have returned to France. Catherine attempts to win Jim back, but he rebuffs her, saying he is going to marry Gilberte. Furious, she pulls a gun on him, but he wrestles it away and flees. He later encounters Jules and Catherine in a very famous (at that time) movie theater, the Studio des Ursulines.

The three of them visit a park, and after lunch, Catherine suggests that Jim get into her car because she has something to show him. After telling Jules to watch them, she proceeds to drive Jim and herself off a bridge. Jules is left to dispose of the ashes of his friends.


One of the seminal products of the French New Wave, Jules and Jim is an inventive encyclopedia of the language of cinema that incorporates newsreel footage, photographic stills, freeze frames, panning shots, wipes, masking, dolly shots, and voiceover narration (by Michel Subor). Truffaut's cinematographer was the virtuoso Raoul Coutard, a frequent collaborator with Jean-Luc Godard, who employed the latest lightweight photographic equipment to create an extremely fluid and distinctive camera style. For example, some of the postwar scenes were shot using cameras mounted on bicycles.

The evocative musical score is by Georges Delerue. One song, "Le Tourbillon" (The Whirlwind), summed up the turbulence of the lives of the three main characters, becoming a popular hit. The dialogue is predominantly in French, with occasional lines in English and German.


  • Quentin Tarantino references this work in his film Pulp Fiction in the line "Don't fucking Jimmy me, Jules".
  • Two sequences from the film appear briefly in a cinema scene in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie.
  • It is also heavily referenced in Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky where: a clip featuring Jeanne Moreau appears during the finale montage; a poster for the film is displayed in the main character's bedroom; two best friends fall in love for the same woman – who leaves the insecure one for the passionate one – causing friction between them; a climatic scene involves a woman driving her car off a bridge with her lover.
  • The song "When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe" by The Divine Comedy references Jules and Jim in the lines 'Jeanne can't choose between the two / 'Cos Jules is hip and Jim is cool / And so they live together'.
  • In the short story, "Las dos Elenas," by Mexican author Carlos Fuentes, one of the Elenas watches Jules et Jim and it influences her perspective on life and relationships.
  • The original music video for the popular song "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer pays tribute to the film and recreates many of the classic scenes.
  • In Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Steve Zissou and Ned Plimpton are standing outside Jane Winslett-Richardson's cabin door. Steve says "Not this one, Klaus", a little homage to the character of Jules in the Truffaut film.
  • In the "Bastille" episode, from the film Paris, je t'aime (2006), the wife (Miranda Richardson) uses to whistle "Le Tourbillon".
  • Pete Townshend's album Empty Glass includes a song entitled "Jools and Jim".
  • In the opening chapter of the novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1989) by Michael Chabon, the narrator observes a fight between two men over a woman. After the woman chooses one of the men, named Larry, the narrator walks off. Another man watching the fight asks the narrator, "Which way were you going, anyway, before you ran into Jules and Jim back there?" The narrator replies "Jules and Larry".

See also

  • Beatrice Wood, a possible inspiration for the character Catherine

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Jules and Jim" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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