2014 marks François Truffaut’s 30th death anniversary. Co-fondator of the prestigious Les Cahiers du Cinéma, leader of the French New Wave movement alongside Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and Alain Resnais, to name but a few, Truffaut’s legacy to cinema overcomes the twenty-seven films he left benind him. Whilst the French Film Institute La Cinémathèque Française organises an exhibition (8 October 2014 – 25 January 2015) and a retrospective (8 October – 30 November 2014) starting this Autumn, the UK film distributor Artificial Eye is treating British audiences with numerous blu-ray releases of Truffaut’s cinema art work. Amongst them, Shoot the Piano Player (1960) and Jules and Jim (1962). Both releases come with a bunch of delightful extras with notably a presentation of the film by Serge Toubiana, the director of La Cinémathèque Française himself. Want to have the whole series? Artificial Eye also released The 400 Blows, The Soft Skin, Stolen Kisses and Bed and Board.
Charlie Kohler, played by the famous French artist Charles Aznavour, is a pianist in a small bar. Things are getting complicated for him once gangsters start getting after his brother. Meanwhile, Léna, the waitress, is in love with Charlie. As she tries to get to know him, the artist struggle to hide his dark past any longer.
Adaptation of the noir novel Down There by David Goodis, the film is often considered as Truffaut’s most lightest film in tone. It is a real homage to American polar that hit French cinemas after the war. Fairly short, the film’s rhythm might seem unequal. Godard’s Breathless was released the same year and whilst the two stories are fairly similar in terms of narration and even, sometimes style, Truffaut’s film seemed to fail into grasping the audience as much as Godard did.
Set in Paris in the 1900s, the story follows two friends, Jules (Oskar Verner) and Jim (Henri Serre); the first one is German, the second French, both are artists and love the same woman Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). Jules marry Catherine but war break them apart. In 1918, they find each other again. Catherine doesn’t love Jules anymore and falls in love with Jim.
As it is the case for Shoot the Piano Player, the story is rhythmically organized around a narrator that comments on the characters’ feelings and actions. The film overflows with poetry and nostalgia as it follows the sad Catherine through her love stories. Jeanne Moreau’s song ‘Le Tourbillon de la Vie’ and the simplicity of her performance probably summarizes best the overall atmosphere of the film whilst offering one of the best sequence of cinema.
Both Shoot the Piano Player (1960) and Jules and Jim (1962), directed by François Truffaut, are distributed in the UK by Artificial Eye, Certificate U.