Francois Truffaut's Jules and Jim is one of the most tragic and poetic love triangles ever made about two men: one French the other Austrian, who fall for the same woman who is clearly, morally unstable. The character of Catherine is one of the most interesting character studies of the cinema; a woman who on one hand has a exciting love and passion for life and excitement, and on the other hand, is selfish, narcissistic and extremely self-destructive. The film goes through several decades of these three character's lives, showing a woman who has given Jules and Jim life and joy, as well as sorrow and unhappiness. Jules and Jim was released in 1962, which was at the creative peak of the French New Wave, and it was Truffaut's third feature after the success of his debute The 400 Blows and Shoot the Piano Player in 1960. Many usually site Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless as the most influential film that started the French New Wave, but Jules and Jim was the most audacious and lovable incorporating such New Wave aesthetics as newsreel footage, photographic stills, freeze frames, panning shots, wipes, masking, dolly shots, and voice-over narration.
With films of The French New Wave there was a fresh excitement and joy in the way the films were created with its raw style and spontaneous energy, and you can clearly see that energy and style in Jules and Jim. You can later see that same energy in the late 60's American films starting with Bonnie and Clyde (which Truffaut was originally going to direct) and the Anti-establishment films of youths and rebellion against authority and society. Jules and Jim were the flower children of the 60's as the film also explored strong ambitious women and the liberating freedoms of female sexuality. Some people look at Jules and Jim as being a highly feminist film and the unbalanced character of Catherine to be a strong liberating female character, which is an interesting theory since the ending of Ridley Scott's Thelma and Louise, which is also considered a highly feminist film, has a striking parallel ending to Jules and Jim. The hypnotic power of Truffaut's masterpiece is how he masterfully manipulates his audience into blindingly falling for the character of Catherine right along with Jules and Jim, as we too ultimately allow ourselves into becoming another one of Catherine's many victims.