“It’s a relationship of love and of friendship, of Europe torn by war,” Leonard Oakland says of Jules et Jim, Francois Truffaut’s groundbreaking 1962 film about a naughty — and ultimately deadly — French/German love triangle.
The Magic Lantern Theater has acoustics that recall a lecture hall, which fits the mood. The Whitworth professor tells us to pay close attention to the “the liberated camera of [cinematographer] Raoul Coutard.”
Coutard caused a hell of a stir in the ‘60s — as did all of French New Wave Film, Oakland says — by “putting aside the antiquated grammar of Hollywood.”
Oakland tells us to listen for a line of dialogue near the film’s end: “You tried to be a pioneer in love.” “What does that mean?” Oakland asks, just before the lights dim.
Then, for 105 schizophrenic, sometimes redundant minutes, Jules et Jim displays the artistic and technical sleight of hand that has informed all cinema —especially American independent films — ever since.
love complicated?” Oakland says
“Ain’t in an aw-shucks tone after the credits, disguising his palpable delight behind a hint of good-natured sarcasm.
And then the lecture becomes a seminar. He asks us what we were moved by, but film critic Dan Webster turns the question back on Oakland.
The film doesn’t do much for Webster, so he asks, “Why does it speak so much to you?” “That’s more autobiographical than I’d like to go,” he says, to laughter. Oakland relents a little, though, without getting specific: “Spiritually, this film is an autobiography of my life,” he says. “It’s not me, but it’s me.”
It seems for a moment that this will be the best part of the night: one of our town’s most august film minds talking candidly about what makes film not simply a lifelong pursuit, but a passion.
But it turns out to be just the initial breach of the floodgate, leading to a torrent of discussion — on the film’s historical context, on the characters’ psychological collapse and their lack of self-love, on the idea that these young Europeans were engaging in some kind of pioneering bohemian love, when in fact they were bound to traditional ideas of parenthood.
No, the best part of the night quickly became how a spark of passion from a man like Leonard Oakland might set an entire room alight with zeal for the movies. [email protected]
The Professor Film Series continues at the Magic Lantern, 25 W. Main Ave., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 7 pm, when Dan Webster hosts Shane. On Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 7 pm, EWU’s Marvin Smith hosts Blade Runner. Tickets: $5. Visit magiclanternspokane.com or call 209-2383.