Catherine=Who cares?

I was thoroughly unimpressed with Jules and Jim. I liked Jules and I liked Jim, and although the movie is named after them, the linchpin in the whole movie seemed to be the character of Catherine. Caring about her is caring about the movie and since I didn't care one way or the other what happened to this fickle, un-interesting and unattractive person I didn't really care what happened in the movie or how it ended. There was a lot of potential in the beginning, but once the setting changed to the chalet I lost all interest in the fate of the main characters. I was unable to fathom a motivation for their beweldering actions.


I would agree with you, she can be quite fickle and unattractive at times (her aging also shows the passage of time), but I think her faults are part of the beauty of the film. When watching you question why in gods name Jules and Jim would ever love someone like this, but then there are these tiny moments that make everything make sense. The film in itself is magnificent, but i had no personal interest in Catherine up until she sang about halfway through the film--I watched that part like 15 times just to hear the song--that's when I fell in love with her too. Then I went back and viewed the whole thing over and couldn't take my eyes off her. It's like Jules says: "She's not especially beautiful, intelligent nor sincere, but she's a real woman...the woman we love, and that all men desire."


I completely agree with this statement and this sums up nearly exactly what I dis-liked about this film. Very nice statement.

My Reviews -


I agree wholeheartedly with the original poster. There should have been more scenes showing us the kind of things Jules and Jim liked about her, in order for us to understand why they did at all.


Quote "" There should have been more scenes showing us the kind of things Jules and Jim liked about her, in order for us to understand why they did at all."

I disagree. Doesn't Jules give a very full and clear explanation on why they both love Catherine? "Elle est une vrai femme." "She's a real woman". I don't know about you but I've met my share of men who unexplicably love, or so they say, women who behave in a similar way to Catherine. They love these women even if they treat them badly, even if they play with their feelings, even if they don't respect their relationship, even if they cheat on them with their best friend or if she sleeps around. I know, I don't get it either, nor do I like Catherine, but these men do exist.


Whether or not they exist, doesn't change my stance on the situation. In order for this movie to have been successful in my eyes, there needed to be an explaination. Something I could grip and understand and there wasn't. Therefore the relationships didn't make sense. The line "She's a real woman" doesn't help.


Maybe it didn't help YOU, but I'm sure it did help others. Well, if you don't think the "she's a real woman", whole scene is an enough clear explanation, there's very little I can say. Their relationship made perfect sense to me. It's disfuncional, it's not ideal nor ordinary. IMO no further explanation is needed.


Sure enough, it is dysfunctional, but what I'm trying to say is that in every relationship, ordinary or not there is something that holds the two (or in this case three) people together. In MY opinion, I don't believe Truffaut did that effectively. In MY opinion one line of dialogue isn't good enough. But I guess you saw something I didn't. Now unfortunately because of that it ruined the movie for me.


I see your point. Well, if the movie doesn't work for you that's fine. Many movies that are considered 'masterpieces' don't work for me either. I just thought you might want to give that scene (the whole scene not just that one line) another chance.


I didn't find Catherine all that appealing--she seemed flaky and self absorbed--but this didn't ruin the movie for me, maybe because people often do become bewitched by someone who leaves others cold. Actually, I found the close friendship between the two men more interesting than their infatuation with Catherine, and think this friendship was as central to the film as their attraction to Catherine. And the film being called "Jules and Jim" makes me think this friendship maybe was intended to be the key relationship.

There's a light (Over at the Frankenstein place)--The Rocky Horror Picture Show



I think your complaint about Catherine is especially apt for the second half of the movie, when she becomes a force of evil, a projection of man's desire for exclusivity, for possession. It's hard to like a character who carelessly destroys her own life and two others. There's much of interest in this film, but your reaction is entirely understandable.


Fair point. (Made over a year ago!)

I will add though that for me, Francois Truffaut provided enough explanation for the blokes' attraction to Catherine, in more ways than just the one line, "c'est une vraie femme". This is why I would question calling their obsessive adherence to Catherine "bewildering".

I hope my ideas below help you to get as much pleasure as I did from "J &J"!




They fell in love with the smile of a statue shown in the projection room by Albert, to the point where they travel across the world to see the original. Then Catherine arrives, with the same smile.

This could be taken literally - they fell in love with a statue, and rather forunately runs into its real-life spitting image.

OR, maybe each of the three men, J, J and Albert push the others to fetishise a concept of femininity up to the point where they will transpose it on anyone - i.e. They convince themselves that Catherine is something she isn't...


In the opening sequence the men are emphatically characterised by their attraction to women: Jim is a player who sees girls all the time, Jules is shy with a history of women back in Germany but bad luck in Paris.

It's already clear that both men are willing to devote a great deal of their attention to women. And Catherine, as Jules says, is a "queen" - she wants ALL of their attention. Evidence (amongst other things) - Jules and Jim are playing dominos, on holday with C early in the film; they are ignoring C who wants someone to scratch her back. She won't give in, eventually slapping Jules on the face. (His reaction, hearty laughter, shows he enjoys these moments of spontaneity.)

They want to give her attention - she wants the attention.

Another reason why Jules might devote himself to C, at least initially, is his recent "dry spell" of love - he has even gone to a prostitute (see opening seq). Whether C exploits this desparation or not is up to you.


Both men are energetic, creative, spontaneous, intelligent, independent people who don't care about money (i.e. yer standard New Wave protaganist types). This is made abundantly clear from the opening credits.

C is also energetic (eg. the bridge race), creative (acting as "Thomas"), spontaneous (jumping into the Seine), intelligent (her multilingualism) and independent (Jim never knows what's going on in her head). She is also loaded (from a rich family, drives a car) but arguably, like them, immaterial - takes more pleasure out of adventure than consumption.

The point is - they've got loads in common! No wonder J and J care about her. (Although whether we as the spectator dig the New Wave "young Turk" personality type is up to us...)


I would agree that in the second half of the film C becomes less sympathetic, for one reason or another. Her own motives for the antagonistic behaviour could be:
a)feeling trapped with the domestic situation,
b)missing Jim,
c)getting p'ed off with Jules' clinginess,
d)the onset of motherhood...
pick your own, just imagine you have the 'New Wave' type personality traits listed above and put yourself in her newly domesticated situation.

What has changed for the MEN, though? - Well, they've fought in a horrible war, which is the focus of several minutes of stock footage, voiceover and scenes with Jim in the cemetaries.

(...This came to mind after thinking about Jim's long story about his war friend in the trenches, who fell in love with a girl he met once and "conquered her heart" in his letters, before dying on the eve of Armistice Day.)

Each man, Jules and Jim, has also undergone a psychological transformation in the trenches which Truffaut doesn't even try to explain - they hardly ever talk about it. But they have had time to reflect on their own existence after an extreme situation which separated them from their loved ones.

I would imagine that after the war, C has more of a symbolic value than she did before, representing to the men:

a) security - after years of being in a perilously insecure position in the trenches, C comes along and says she loves the men and care for them unreservedly;

b) former, happier times, before the horrors of war arrived;

c) the spontaneity and creativity, the living-for-the-moment that neither Jules nor Jim can fully regain after their time in the war - each has been forced to confront the big questions about what it means to kill, to die, to make the most of one's life. (I think this "existentialist" theme is common to the New Wave films.)

Evidence - Jim in the bar in Paris, surrounded by people that rush past him saying hi, talking about what they are doing, but he's not seeming to interact with life in the way he used to - he seems quieter, more introverted.

Evidence 2 - When Jim arrives at their house on the Rhein after the war, he recounts the story of how he was told he could never be a diplomat - only a "curieux", one of those types that goes from country to country, searching for answers. He says he detests this life. This reflection exeplifies his new metaphysical side, and to him, C's spontaneity, her 100% devotion to the moment, could be a kind of supplement which he longs for. (Jules in the meantime seems equally reflective - he comes up with gloomy quotes in German, ceaselessy analyses the menage-a-trois situation, and has become C's worshipper, calling her his queen, as though it keeps him mentally together.)


OK well the bugger is that I can defend Truffaut but I can't defend your opinion of Catherine - at the end of the day, if you don't like a main character, it can undermine a lot of the film.

I hope that the points above, if not helping you to like her, help you to empathise with the characters and understand what could be their motivations, therefore to care a bit more about the film.

Which I do :)


This are some good points. Thanks for sharing!


I love Catherine's character. Somehow it reminds me Scarlett from Gone with The Wind. Full of life, strong character, wilfull, beautiful, selfish, spoiled, trying to love (and understand love), but always far from succeding at it. She destroys herself and the ones around her. Deadly charming.
As they say, I think it's her smile. But not only the serious one, but the one that appears in the posters: her carelessness. She is amoral, but highly attractive. A whirlwind, a roller coaster, of great emotions.
There's no woman as Catherine as Jules and Jim know well (in fact, they tried with many others, but none was as challenging as she).


Full of life, strong character, wilfull, beautiful, selfish, spoiled, trying to love (and understand love), but always far from succeding at it. She destroys herself and the ones around her.

So she's a bitch and who likes a bitch? I know seeing a bitch in a movie is more romantic and therefore more forgivable. But take her out of the movie, plop her in real life and she's nothing short of unbearable. The point I'm trying to make here is that no one (who isn't a masochist or a family relation) would choose to be around a person like this.


You're either a guy or a girl with no concept of what being a REAL woman is all about. Catherine is a disgusting female.

I hate how any tramp is considered "full of life", "strong", "willful" and "beautiful", just because they'd rather give it away easily than show commitment to someone they chose to be committed to. But you were right on the "spoiled" and "selfish" part, as you were about her failure to succeed in loving and understanding love. That's because she was such a despicable (B)witch.

And no, I didn't like Scarlett either. She got what she deserved in the end. I only felt bad for her when she fell down the stairs.

"Give it up to God, for Christ's sake!"


I'm at a loss as to whether or not any woman in cinema ever needed her ass thrown through a window more than Catherine did in this film. It's portrayed as if women are free to come and go after they have committed to marriage. I'm not sure what pissed me off more - her actions - or the male characters letting her get away with it...

No I'm not a chauvinist pig - if it had been the other way around I'd feel the same way!



I agree. There is no discernible reason whatsoever for Jim to have kept going back to Catherine and leaving Gilberte. Every character in this film needed MAJOR professional help.

"Love isn't what you say or how you feel, it's what you DO". (The Last Kiss)


I don't think I've seen this wonderful expression (from French, incidentally) show up in this and other threads on Catherine-the-Amoral-Woman, i.e. femme fatale. I think that this term perfectly and compactly embodies what Catherine is, in ultimate analysis. In fact, she is probably one of the most iconic femme fatale ever depicted in cinema, considering the first-degree meaning of "fatale". I would also add another French expression, qui s'y frotte s'y pique, of which I found a savory equivalent in English (my first language being French, I marvel at discovering English expressions that are new to me: "gather thistles, expect prickles"...

A femme fatale does not need to be a textbook, esthetically perfect beauty, and in fact, one may easily find one or two obvious imperfections that are essential elements of her charm. Taking Jeanne Moreau at her face (!!) value as the Catherine character, one might point out her mouth, which is precisely what gave the actress one of her most distinctive features. In addition to having a charming peculiarity that also sets her apart from the crowds of other women out there, a femme fatale has many qualities that can be regrouped under the general theme that we call her charm. Often, it's rather difficult to put some of these personality characteristics or features into words - which brings up the essential role of cinema in telling stories involving a femme fatale: just being with her, or listening to her or looking at her while doing something reveals these traits that are almost too evanescent to capture with an all-made formula, but which definitely leave a durable impression on "her men". Such essential qualities might be somehow appropriately defined as a femme fatale's virtual pheromones. In Jules et Jim, Catherine managed to attract and capture Jules and Jim for good from the moment they saw her for real (whereas the statue acted as the initial portrait showing Catherine's singularities, which are the actual trigger of the femme fatale's trapping system ,,,

Having known a "couple" of actual femme fatales, some biblically, some not, I can certify that Catherine (the character) and Jeanne Moreau (the actress) are interchangeable perfect examples of this dangerous species.

And I have an interesting anecdote that's perfect for this thread. When I was young, I used to watch a lot of French movies on TV that were starring Jeanne Moreau, who was very hot in the 60s –mostly. I can even say that I had what we call un faible (a weak spot) for Moreau. Then one day, I met a group of girls (we were all in our late teens then) at a discotheque (that’s back around 1971 to 1974), which had caught my eye first for one reason: one of the girls was a living copy of Jeanne Moreau. The likeness was so striking it was eerie and made me uneasy, When I finally found enough guts to go and speak to her, I could barely find something better than the average pickup line to say to her because the likeness was so incredibly strong that I had only one thing in my mind: “Don’t tell her about her resemblance with Jeanne Moreau, it’s so obvious that she must have heard it a million times!”. And just like the actress, she did not strike as a beautiful woman, but God, did she have that powerful charm and strong effect on me! I got better acquainted with her. She was a very shy girl, and I could not tell very well what sort of effect, if any of significance, I had on her. We even danced that night and we dated for a short while. She was from a rich family and lived in a splendid house while me... I was fighting for my survival as a student lodged on campus.... I could tell that she liked me, but unfortunately, I finally realized that my attraction for her was not really ... for her but for what she projected, i.e. bloody Jeanne Moreau, whose pheromones my clone did not possess (sigh). But I am happy to have met her and to have come to the realization that no two femme fatales are alike, and that looks are sooooooooo deceitful.