Sunday, July 27, 2014

THE LAST METRO (François Truffaut, 1980, France)

SPINE# 462
A Jewish playwright is forced to hide in the dank underground of his own theatre. He directs his play listening to echoes and whispered secrets as his wife drifts farther away into her double life. Director François Truffaut creates a play within a play within a film and a love triangle that reflects this deep masquerade as the characters must act out their parts to survive, losing themselves in the brutal nexus of fiction and reality.

During the Nazi occupation of Paris, Daxiat an Anti-Semitic critic vomits his propaganda through the media and attempts to gain control of the Montmartre Theatre and its beautiful owner, the gentile wife of the “missing” playwright. The gorgeous Catherine Deneuve imbues Marion Steiner with a fiery inner strength and charm, an independent woman torn between her husband and the new actor Bernard Granger (a rock-solid performance by Gerard Depardieu). Granger is a member of the Resistance and uses his talent to secret information and contraband to his cohorts, his egotistic facade hiding his true political motivations. But soon Bernard can no longer hide his anger at the inane verbiage spouted by Daxiat and his actions threaten the company and his own life by revealing his true colors: blue, white, and red. Lucas directs the play through a proxy and the play THE VANISHING LADY is a huge success…but the two leads begin to love and despise one another.

Truffaut is concerned with the faces hidden under the makeup and shadowed by stage light, and seeks to uncover the hidden agendas and aspirations of human nature, using the play set amidst our violent history as a metaphor concerning the value of art imitating life. His characters all hide behind some barrier: a dank cement wall, the social graces of high society, or the idol banter of male egotism. THE LAST METRO is filmed in glorious saturated colors, giving the film itself a stage-like atmosphere, which further confuses the senses. As the film ends and reconciliations are made, Truffaut cuts to life as an act, seeking truth through the paradigm of Art.

Final Grade: (B+)

Blu-ray (1 disc); DVD (2 disc)
  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Two audio commentaries: one featuring Annette Insdorf, author of François Truffaut, and one with actor Gérard Depardieu, historian Jean-Pierre Azéma, and Truffaut biographer Serge Toubiana
  • Deleted scene
  • French television excerpts of interviews with Truffaut, and actors Catherine Deneuve, Depardieu, and Jean Poiret
  • New video interviews with actresses Andréa Ferréol, Sabine Haudepin, and Paulette Dubost, assistant director Alain Tasma, and camera assistants Florent Bazin and Tessa Racine
  • A video interview with the celebrated cinematographer Nestor Almendros, detailing his collaborations with Truffaut
  • Une histoire d’eau, Truffaut’s 1958 short film co-directed by Jean-Luc Godard
  • Theatrical trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by Armond White


  1. Great idea, Alex, to cover Criterion's vaunted & vast collection. The Last Metro isn't one of my favourite Truffauts, but certainly worth a watch.

  2. Great to hear from you!! Keep up the good work on your blog. I'm excited to see Artificial Eye releasing so many Truffaut films next month because Criterion can't be far behind! I had never seen this one before and liked it more than I thought I would being a latter film. JULES AND JIM is probably my favorite though there are still many Truffaut films I have yet to see.

  3. Thanks Alex. Well, my favourite Truffaut is Shoot the Piano Player - what a marvelous reworking of classic American noirs it was! 400 Blows would be a close 2nd, followed by Day for Night. Jules & Jim too would be right up there, but I need to revisit it sometime.

  4. They're all part of the UK Blu-ray releases except DAY FOR NIGHT. I've never seen SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER but it's the one I'm most excited to see in this set! I also love 400 BLOWS but believe JULES & JIM combines Eros and Thanatos for a bit more profound affect. Hope you can check it out soon!