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aka - Dernier M├ętro, Le
France 1980
Directed by
Francois Truffaut
133 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Last Metro

Truffaut’s film was the second instalment in a loose trilogy on the entertainment world that Truffaut had planned. The first instalment was Day For Night (La Nuit Américaine), 1973, but the third instalment which was intended to deal with the world of music hall was never filmed.

The Last Metro is set in Nazi-occupied Paris during the Second World War and tells the story of Marion Steiner (Catherine Deneuve) who runs a Monmartre theatre formerly operated by her Jewish husband (Heinz Bennent) whom she hides in the cellar. Gérard Depardieu plays Bernard Granger, a headstrong actor who cannot stand the boot-licking that is required to keep the theatre open.

The film was huge critical success in France, winning ten Césars and also received a Best Foreign Film nomination in the Academy Awards.  It is a rather heavy-handed affair. Despite the fact that Deneuve, of course, is irresistible and Depardieu was doing his best work at this time but Truffaut tends to labour the nobility of the theatrical personnel particularly that of the director-husband who is kitted up in his basement like Marcel Proust, apparently unperturbed by the lack of heating in the Parisian winter. The film, which was photographed by Nestor Almendros, unusually for Truffaut tends to look rather set-bound, giving the whole thing a story-within-a-story feel, something which is well-highlighted in the final scene, whilst the relationship between Deneuve and Depardieu is so tangential that when the revelation of a grand amour comes it's rather a surprise (what, may one ask, does she see in him?).

The Last Metro is a solidly made film but Truffaut is much more at home with the personal than the political, the naturalistic than the artificial and it has a didactic tone which may have struck a chord at the time but tends now to make it more effective as historical illustration than drama  

FYI: Sabine Haudepin who plays Nadine, a young ambitious actress, played the small daughter of Catherine and Jules in Jules and Jim (1962) whilst Heinz Bennent is the father of David Bennent, who starred as Oscar in The Tin Drum (1979).

 

 

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