Spoiler wanring! I have a question about the movie Jules et Jim
July 22, 2004 7:58 PM   Subscribe

I just finished watching Jules et Jim. I really liked it, but I have a slightly spoilerish question which I will ask inside.

Is there supposed to be anything redeeming about Catherine? I found her selfish, small-minded, and utterly insane. I don't think she really loved anyone but herself. Am I completely off base?
posted by PinkStainlessTail to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
Well, she can do that neat smoking trick.
posted by bcwinters at 8:29 PM on July 22, 2004

Response by poster: That's Therese.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:30 PM on July 22, 2004

Um, that's a toughy. It depends what you're asking/saying. Did you feel that Jules and Jim's love for Catherine was unfounded or that you simply--yourself--would not have fallen for her? If the latter, than I think it's pretty much irrelevant. If the former, than I'd say that the film simply didn't "work" for you, which is neither good nor bad but... well, I'd say rewatch it in some years (anytime when you're own opinions on Love are different from what they are presently).

I know many people who think that Jules et Jim is a testament to free love. However, I disagree. To me, the film is quite obviously against polyamorous relationships. (Though it's been a good while since I've seen it so don't ask me for specific examples.)

In her heart, Catherine will never choose one of them over the other, but the central root of internal conflict stems from the fact that both Jules and Jim are incapable of accepting that. Instead, each tries to bend her will (while outwardly pretending that they would never do that) and insist that she (presumably because she is a woman) should not be free to love who she wishes when she wishes. (Though of course they reserve that right for themselves.)

I'm not sure I'm making a lot of sense but these are the things that jumped out at me when I watched the film. I find Catherine attractive because she is both confident and vulnerable in equal measure. "Selfish, small-minded, and utterly insane" are really only condemnations one can make of someone they do not (yet/still) love. Though Jules and Jim (and countless viewers) may pass such judgements on her, she will not be swayed, and, because of this, her ability to remain purely Catherine, will always win them back.

Note: If you have not seen Y Tu Mama Tambien yet, I highly recommend you do so. It is a terrific homage to the Truffaut film.
posted by dobbs at 9:38 PM on July 22, 2004

I'd say rewatch it in some years (anytime when you're own opinions on Love are different from what they are presently).

I should be clear that I wasn't intending to pass judgement on your relationship/experience with love, but simply find that it's a film that most people eventually do get. If you're presently not in love, your opinion of the film (/Catherine) will probably change when you are and vice versa.
posted by dobbs at 9:42 PM on July 22, 2004

Catherine's character is a distraction. The movie is all about Jules and Jim's homoerotic attraction to each other.
posted by alidarbac at 11:10 PM on July 22, 2004

Personally, I don't think there was anything redeeming about Catherine. I thought she was a complete twat, and spent most of the film utterly fed up with both Jules and Jim for falling for her particular schtick again and again. I recognize there is a lot of personal baggage in my distaste for the film--as a more or less well adjusted woman, I never understood why people would become so smitten with nut cases like Catherine, imbuing their neuroticism with an injured nobility and twisting theirselves into knots about it.

The same thing that drives certain women to always date assholes, I suppose.

I also thought the conflicts in the film would only be possible in the lives of wealthy, world-weary gad abouts, which annoyed me endlessly. If Jules, Jim, Catherine, et al had to scrounge for their next meal, they might get some damn perspective and quit being such a big fat bag of whiners about their petty little self-inflicted problems.

I recognize there is some personal baggage in that critique as well.
posted by jennyb at 6:27 AM on July 23, 2004

Response by poster: I should be clear that I wasn't intending to pass judgement on your relationship/experience with love, but simply find that it's a film that most people eventually do get. If you're presently not in love, your opinion of the film (/Catherine) will probably change when you are and vice versa.

No worries, and believe me I have been in situations where the object of my affection was uncomfortably close to Catherine. So the love and the crazy we do for love to ourselves and to others, I totally get. I just came away with the sense that Catherine was supposed to be totally unpleasant to the viewer, but perhaps I brought along a little baggage of my own.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:55 AM on July 23, 2004

I agree with dobbs's analysis, although I confess that when I revisited the movie after many years I was underwhelmed -- Truffaut has aged far less well than his fellow riders of the nouvelle vague. But if you don't find the idea that both men are nuts about Catherine plausible, then the movie isn't going to work for you; you shouldn't confuse that with the notion that the movie doesn't work, period. (And I hope it doesn't need to be said that one should guard against letting one's personal reactions to the characters influence one's judgment of a movie. There's nobody to like in, say, Chinatown or The Conversation, two of the greatest American movies.)
posted by languagehat at 7:12 AM on July 23, 2004

I don't necessarily agree that you should guard against personal reactions to characters when judging a movie, as long as you can recognize that you're judging the movie based on your personal reactions to the characters. I would never say that Jules et Jim didn't "work", but I will say with utmost confidence that I didn't enjoy the movie, and recognize why (stated above).

To me, being able to find at least something sympathetic about a character is important to my full enjoyment of a film. I can appreciate technical direction, cinematography, underlying philosophical gist, plot, etc. in a film full of despicable characters and still come out liking the movie. But if I can find a little something to like about the characters, I'll enjoy the movie even more.

I'm a very subjective movie viewer, which is why I don't often share my opinions in the form of written reviews. I am very careful to phrase my opinions of movies in subjective terms (I didn't like it and here's why) but rarely call movies that I didn't like "bad". But I don't think that undermines my enjoyment of a movie or casts doubts as to the legitimacy of my personal taste at all.
posted by jennyb at 8:24 AM on July 23, 2004

PS: Given my proclivities for getting my personal issues mixed up in my enjoyment of film, I don't often engage in this kind of discussion but I got excited to read that someone found Catherine as annoying as I did and shared despite my better judgment.
posted by jennyb at 8:31 AM on July 23, 2004

Truffaut has aged far less well than his fellow riders of the nouvelle vague.

Don't know if I agree with that. Some of his work (The 400 Blows and much of the Antoine series, Shoot the Piano Player, and a few others) get better for me each time I watch. The ones I've always disliked (Wild Child / Day for Night) never seem to crossover to my like pile.

jennyb, interesting lists you've made there. Some of your faves are among my least faves (The Fast Runner, Italian for Beginners, and The Shining, for instance) but you've also got some of my very fave films listed (Third Man, the Kieslowskis, Kane). Neat site. Hadn't seen it before.
posted by dobbs at 9:18 AM on July 23, 2004

jennyb: I like your list too, especially the straightforward honesty of:
I just can't replace my cheesy favorites with classics. This isn't to say that I don't enjoy or have a solid background in the classics, but if I could only take 20 to the desert island, I'd rather have Beastmaster than Wild Strawberries.
As long as you don't confuse "I didn't like it" with "It was bad," which you don't, I have no problem with subjectivity; after all, our subjective tastes are at the base of all the "objective" stuff we learn later.

dobbs: Well, I've been meaning to watch Shoot the Piano Player again for a long time (haven't seen it since the '70s), so maybe I'll do that and see if his best stuff still holds up for me.
posted by languagehat at 10:54 AM on July 23, 2004

I suggest you check out Henri-Pierre Roché's book (he also wrote Les Deux Anglaises). marvelous writer. it helps a lot to make things clearer and give even more nuance to the J&J movie.
sorry but I think old Truffaut aged better than 75% of old Godard (Tout Va Bien, anybody?), who is a god anyway. I miss Truffaut like a motherfucker. he'll be dead 20 years in October, I'm working on a mega-post about that.
I enormously like Malle, that forgotten master, and Resnais still has his moments. but Truffaut rocks my world. and his writing is just off-the-charts beautiful, even if he thought he was a clumsy writer. and even later works like La femme d'à Côté move me so deeply. Small Change? Timeless, like Rossellini.

The ones I've always disliked (Wild Child / Day for Night)

all due respect, Wild Child is like Voltaire for me (not to mention Almendros' b/w cinematography). Day For Night? Cortese gives one of the rawest, most emotional performances in modern cinema -- it's silent-film style acting in a modern talkie. priceless.
posted by matteo at 12:03 PM on July 23, 2004

re Malle -- I just rewatched his farewell, Vanya On 42nd Street, for what has to be the 15th time
posted by matteo at 12:05 PM on July 23, 2004

matteo, I've tried both Wild Child and Day for Night twice and both times was just... I dunno, I couldn't pay attention. They both were so terrifically uninteresting. Wild Child seems like I should want to pay attention and I just don't. Day for Night, well, we should just agree to disagree. :)

I always find it hard to appreciate things like cinematography or acting when I really don't care for the story, which is the case with both of these films.

Admittedly, because it's you disagreeing with me, I'm having my doubts about my own opinions.

[when are you going to make your Michael Haneke post?]
posted by dobbs at 10:38 PM on July 23, 2004

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