Catherine was one of those entrancing women, so full of life and fun, a free spirit, brave, sparky, vivacious – the kind of lively, fragile personality who lives on the edge; exciting, impulsive, passionate and very dangerous.  Like a candle in the wind, she was never going to be tied down to the routines of marriage; it would be too boring for her.  But Jules worshipped and adored her.  He couldn’t live without her.  He went to war. She had lovers.  Then Jim, Jules best friend, turned up.   Jules told him how scared he was that Catherine would leave him.  He recognised that Catherine had  eyes for Jim and told him that it was alright for them to have an affair as long as they didn’t leave him.  But their ménage a trois was not entirely happy or honest.  Jim still continued to be in contact with Gilberta, Catherine became bored,  Jim felt jealous of Jules.  There was trouble in paradise.  He left saying that they should have a break.  Catherine was desperate, she wrote to him. 

Some time later, they meet again in Paris.  Jules and Catherine invite Jim to their mill on the Seine.   Jim tells Catherine he is going marry Gilberta.  Catherine produces a revolver and threatens to shoot him.  He wrestles the revolver off her and escapes through the window.  Some time later she calls him.  They all go for a picnic by the river.  Catherine invites Jim to go for a drive with her; she has something to tell him and she invites Jules to watch them.  She then drives the car off a broken bridge into the river, killing them both.  Jules is destroyed.   

So what kind of person is Catherine?  They say she is La Reine.  She has to be obeyed.  Impulsive, controlling, charismatic and sexually provocative, she is the sort of free spirit that has men in her thrall.  Although they might be able to possess  her sexually, they can’t tie her down.  She will always find someone else who is more interesting, more exciting.  What is the point of life if it is not exciting?  Catherine falls in love at the drop of a eyelid, but she cannot love.  She cannot tolerate the day to day living, the routine of it, the struggles. She is too hedonistic, too easily dissatisfied.  She has to have drama.  Like a spoilt child, she needs  attention; it’s her life’s blood.  But if she doesn’t get it, look out, there will be trouble; she will betray, abandon, and is even prepared to kill.   She has a split personality.  She can be delightful and entertaining when it suits her, but she also has a dark, murderous side with  little empathy and no sense of guilt or shame.  She will manipulate and exploit men to achieve power and excitement, but never quite realises how she hurts them.  She never thinks how her behaviour affects Jules or her daughter.  She can’t help it.  It’s the way she is.  Her men either have to worship her or be destroyed.  Jim refuses to play the game and is sacrificed.  Jules has to suffer – forever.

Jeanne Moreau plays Catherine in Truffaut’s 1962 masterpiece of French cinema.

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