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Jules and Jim: The Criterion Collection

"You said to me: I love you. I said to you: wait. I was going to say: take me. You said to me: go away." This cryptic exchange, spoken by a smoky, feminine voice over a dark screen at the outset of François Truffaut's Jules and Jim, is meaningless on first blush. Without the weight of the film behind it to offer explication, it's forgotten the moment Georges Delerue's rambunctious score roars to life over the opening credits. But every time one returns to the film, which should be often now that The Criterion Collection has at last given Truffaut's early masterpiece the deluxe treatment it so richly deserves, these lines, though still open to interpretation, sound a melancholy note, reminding the viewer that the buoyancy of the first act, so powerful and seemingly indefatigable the first time through, will be fleeting. War, marriage, infidelity and the simple, enervating passage of time will eventually grind the exuberance of the picture's three star-crossed lovers to dust. Truffaut's ebullient craftsmanship, however, proves far more resilient under the darkening course of this strange love affair; in fact, even when tragedy inevitably strikes, the governing mood remains one of giddiness. That's because Truffaut, making his third feature film, following the early nouveau vague successes of The 400 Blows and Shoot the Piano Player, had seemingly all at once mastered, more through synthesis than his comparatively limited practice, every single aspect of the cinematic vocabulary. Gone is the borderline reckless swagger of those previous pictures, replaced by an astonishing fluency bred into him by a short, but intense period of rapt study in the hallowed hall of the Cinematheque Francais. Tackling a fiercely interior literary work by Henri-Pierre Roche, Truffaut tells his story in a mad collision of fast moving images and detached third-person narration, cramming three decades worth of incident into 105 minutes so effortlessly that the film plays as revelatory today as it must have at the time of its release (enrapturing young critics and enraging the old guard). He's a liberated filmmaker who knows what he wants to say, and seems to have no shortage of breathtakingly inventive ways to say it. And that is a rarity in any era. The Criterion Collection presents Jules and Jim in a gorgeous anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with crisp Dolby Digital 1.0 audio. The two-disc set includes two audio commentaries (one featuring collaborators, the other exclusively with Jeanne Moreau), excerpts from The Key to Jules and Jim (31 min.), Truffaut discussing Roche (7 min.), five disparate interviews with the director spanning five years (56 min.), a new video interview with Raoul Coutard (19 min.), an older interview with Jean Gruault (20 min.), a conversation between film scholars Robert Stam and Dudley Andrew (23 min.), a stills gallery, theatrical trailer, and a 44-page booklet featuring essays from Truffaut, a new write-up by NPR critic John Powers, and Pauline Kael's legendary review from I Lost It at the Movies. Dual DVD keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks

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