Sunday, February 19, 2012

Le dernier métro

A year ago, I mentioned an upcoming airing of the film The Last Metro, but stated that it had been some time since I had seen it. I got around to watching one of the TCM showings since then, so now I can finally do a fuller-length post on The Last Metro, which is coming up on TCM again, overnight at 3:30.

Catherine Deneuve stars as Marion Steiner, a French actress working in the Paris of 1942, which of course is a time when the city was occupied by the Nazis, which makes life difficult for everybody. It made life particularly difficult for Marion, whose husband Lucas was Jewish. He had to escape to Latin America when the Nazis came to France. Meanwhile, Marion also has to keep the theater she's managing going. Into all of this walks actor Bernard (Gérard Depardieu), auditioning for a part in the new play that will be running at Marion's theater. He's a dashing young man who tries to charm all the women around him, which is also a problem for her.

The reason all of this is a problem for Marion is that Lucas never really escaped. That would have been too dangerous, so instead of having him try to escape, the couple decided to hide him, Anne Frank style, in the relatively unused basement of the theatre for the duration of the occupation. So it's quite important that Marion keep the theater going in that she needs a place to hide her husband. There's one person who can help her, and it's not Bernard; instead it's the theater critic Daxiat, who could make life a lot easier for her (he thinks) by writing a favorable review and taking over the theatre; maybe she could even get enough money to escape to South America and be with her husband. (Not that he knows the truth about Lucas, of course.) The problem here for Marion is that Daxiat is quite the Nazi sympathizer.

To be honest, there's not all that much going on in The Last Metro, at least, not on the surface. (No pun intended.) That actually works in the film's favor, however: it makes the film much easier to follow for those who feel it's work to have to read subtitles. It's almost more of a character study, but all of the characters are quite good, with an especially good job turned in by Deneuve.

François Truffaut directed. I'm not a huge fan of the French New Wave and films like Truffaut's The 400 Blows or Jules et Jim. But if you want to learn about the work of a director like Truffaut, a little movie like The Last Metro is an excellent place to start, and is highly recommended

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