An inter-war idyll, a dream of innocence, a love letter to la vie bohème, whichever way you take it, François Truffaut's best-known film retains the charm, if not the impact, it had on release 46 years ago. It's also, touchingly, a lesson in the endurance of friendship, which blossoms between two poets, an Austrian named Jules (Oskar Werner) and a Frenchman, Jim (Henri Serre) in the early years of the century. Their love for the same woman, Catherine (Jeanne Moreau), can no more alienate them than the intervention of the First World War, when they fight on rival sides.
Rapprochement, marriage, and a peculiar ménage-à-trois follow, with the indomitable Catherine presiding over the two men as "a queen", "a force of nature", even "a real woman", and it is tribute to Moreau's protean skill that she inhabits this multiform creature so credibly. Truffaut sports with technique – jumpcuts, overlaps, freeze-frames – almost as one discovering cinema for the first time. Only in the last reel does his tone fail; Catherine's indecision seems less free-spirited defiance than attention-seeking flakiness. Naturally it ends in tears – and it still looks great.
Watch the Jules et Jim trailer