Catherine: Portrait of a Modern Woman in Jules et Jim for Playtime Magazine


My second article for Playtime Magazine is up, this time on Catherine in one of my favourite films, here is an excerpt. Read the rest HERE

Some critics of Francois Truffaut’s 1962 film, Jules et Jim have argued that the film’s central character, Catherine (brought to life by the incomparable Jeanne Moreau), is an impulsive and unpredictable force of nature. You cannot anticipate what she will do, and perhaps that’s why she is so enchanting to her male friends. Though there is something to this idea, I think there are too many patterns in her behaviour to it off as completely random. To the audience, she is not enchanting because she is impulsive, but rather because she is very human. Though we do not always know her motivations, her actions still make sense.

5 responses to “Catherine: Portrait of a Modern Woman in Jules et Jim for Playtime Magazine

  1. I happen to think Catherine in “Jules and Jim” is among the most complex of woman roles in cinema. The film is my favorite Truffaut and I love reading anything about it. Thanks for the post.

  2. You’ve done a fine job of turning up different aspects of Catherine’s character. Despite Jeanne Moreau’s goddless-like status in cinema history, I can never quite relate to Catherine as I feel “I should”, and I was relieved when I read, not too long ago, an essay by Germaine Greer in which she reluctantly conceeded, basically, that Catherine is crazy.

    It’s such a fascinating film, full of lyrical energy, but I still feel a disconnect between its purely cinematic excitement and its narrative/psychological content. I think you’ve gone about as far as anyone can for repairing my ‘interest’ in these aspects of the film– but still, Catherine chills my blood as a fuming, murderous pseudo-Nietzschean harridan!

    Well, but I might as well admit that I am in a situation very analogous to Jules’, just as you spell it out, so I may be too “involved” with the film’s archetypes not to be scared off by them! Yet it’s hard to believe today, as Greer admits, that back in her youth she and others took Catherine as an exemplar. I do sympathize with her feelings as Jules launches into his Strindbergean (I agree it must be Strindberg) rant, and I’m intrigued by your noirish suggestion that here Catherine determines to become the spider who will dominate the men in her life; but then, I also see Jules’ misogyny as almost a kind of cynical ‘corrective’ he gropes for to amend his too-trusting nature! (and I might identify with that too!). At any rate, Catherine’s deathly plunges and lethal arsenal of acid (again, she almost kills herself burning those letters) make her pretty scary to me, and so not quite so loveable . . . .

    I’ve probably said this before, but have you ever gotten to see what, for me, may be the supremely lyrical film (but also heart-rendingly “honest”) in the cinema, Truffaut’s Les Deux Anglaises? I’m not sure quite any film has torn me up so badly at its ending as that has!!! –and of course, it is a bookend to Jules et Jim in many ways, but for me, so much more quintessential . . .

  3. Jason: You are far from the only person to have this reaction, many of my friends dislike Catherine rather fervently, and I saw it in a classroom setting most recently, where there were pretty heavy debates from both sides of the spectrum. One of my friends even told me, I was like Catherine in many ways, I’m still not sure how to take that.

    I think Jules’ is perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film, his fault is loving too much, and though he willfully puts himself in the position of a victim, he is nonethless very likeable in a distant socially awkward kind of way.

    I acutally agree with you on Jules’ “rant”. It was mostly in gest, his tone and repartee with Jim really lent to the fact that he was exagerrating his reaction and trying to be amusing. It does seem in part a defense mechanism for his nature, but also, perhaps, reveals an underlying anger of his situation.

    Catherine is scary :p But fascinating and somehow alluring. I can’t quite pin it down, but she is just one of the most interesting and gripping characters of the screen, and I can’t help feeling for her.

    I haven’t seen it yet, I have a really difficult time with Truffaut for some reason, I actually turned it off last time I rented it. I’ll give it a real shot sometime though 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s