The Last Metro (1980)

Directed by Francois Truffaut
Written by Francois Truffaut, Suzanne Schiffman & Jean-Claude Grumberg

Francois Truffaut is a name which, while not be a household name to the average movie watcher, should at least be a name you’ve heard before, and if you haven’t then I would recommend you check out the man’s body of work, as I am attempting to start to do. He is a French filmmaker and one of the most important names, along side Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Varda and Eric Rohmer among others, in the French New Wave film movement in the late 50s, early 60s which influenced American filmmaking in what has been called the New Hollywood era of the late 60s early 70s. Over the years Truffaut has produced many highly regard pictures with many highly regarded actors, including the beautiful Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu.

Marion Steiner (Deneuve) is a famous actress of both the screen and the stage, including her own at the theatre which was owned by her husband, Lucas, who is a Jew in Paris during Nazi occupation in the 40s. As a result, Lucas fled, leaving the business of running the theatre to Marion. Jumping through hoops for various reasons, many of the them obvious given the Nazi occupation, Marion puts on a play, and chooses Bernard Granger (Depardieu) as her leading man.

I honestly would have never guessed that Truffaut would have directed a film with Nazi’s in it, having no idea what the film was about before sitting down to watch it. But it kind of makes sense in a way because after all he is a French filmmaker and World War II/Nazis are a major part of French history in the past century, so why not? In a way it’s also a meta experiment with it also being about the production of a play with actors and directors, a production within a production. And add on to that the obvious weight the story of the play has within the story of the film.

I honesty have little experience with anyone involved in this film. The only other Truffaut film I had seen was the iconic The 400 Blows, which was a completely new type of film to me that I probably need to revisit now to fully appreciate. This is the first time I have seen Catherine Deneuve and I thought she did a good job, though she didn’t blow me away. And I have seen Gerard Depardieu a few times, both of which were good performances and he is solid as a rock here as well. What is interesting about the film is how much like a stage play it is. All of the film pretty much takes place within the actual theater and there is not much change of scenery.

The style of the film failed to strike me as well. The way the story unfolded, it was well paced and well shot, and honestly I can’t think of any beef I have with this film other than its ability to truly capture my attention, interest or imagination. And maybe that has something to do with the language barrier, and maybe it doesn’t, but thus far Truffaut has only been solid and polished and not much more, though as I said, I do need to revisit The 400 Blows. The Last Metro was a good experience, but it wasn’t very memorable.


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