Plumb Lines

March 30, 2009

Monday Movie-Still Blogging

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 1:00 am

IMHO, the best movie ever made, Jules et Jim:

Jules et Jim isn’t as compositionally perfect as Dreyer’s Jeanne d’Arc. The visual beauty of the film relies much more on motion, especially the motion of the characters. That motion is nonetheless communicated now and then in the still composition, as this example illustrates spectacularly. If you’re meant to look at a film like Jeanne d’Arc, you’re supposed to look into this one. The representation, even taking a still at random, can’t be unstitched from the aesthetic  locus.

That said, it’s still very charming considered as a painting or a photograph. Note that the camera is tilted a few degrees counter-clockwise of vertical and the actors get smaller from left to right. This makes the characters appear as if they’re riding a destabilized merry-go-round, which represents the plot more or less accurately.

Every lavish detail is stylized. These details are lost in the whir when the film is in motion, but their combined effect is central to its atmosphere. Even Jim’s hairstyle (he’s the one on the left) reminds me of the Maison St-Cyr.

-David Schaengold



  1. David, you offer some wonderful insights here. I agree with you completely with respect to the slightly off-kilter atmosphere of the scene. Even the wine bottle (a Reisling?) asks to be considered to be the axis of the circular table, and yet is clearly some four inches off central hole. I would very much like to see the movie now…

    Comment by P. Langdale Hough — March 30, 2009 @ 9:14 am

  2. […] The Times has been thinking about Dutch Bicycles recently. More than their elegant frames and sensible chain guards, the absence of which on most American bikes exemplifies the deep American hostility to city life — biking is a sport over here — the best feature of these bikes is that they make the rider sit perpendicular to the street. American cycling culture is still basically anti-urban. Everyone wears helmets, and must, because the balls of their feet are clipped to the pedals and any speed below twenty-five miles per hour makes them feel pedestrian and diminishes the undoubted sublimity of their thrills. In San Francisco, Chicago, and Brooklyn, supposedly the American urbanists’ urbanisms, the cyclists’ cyclists pedal with their backs parallel to the ground. The Dutch Bicycle, by contrast, is designed for cyclo-flanerie, for the aimless, unsporty civilian. Its riders thrill to the beautiful, not the sublime, even if the beauty of a busy city seen at a not-quite-pedestrian ten miles per hour is a bit unstable. […]

    Pingback by The Dutch Bicycle « Plumb Lines — May 1, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

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