Last Metro, The (1980): Truffaut’s Oscar-Nominated WWII Melodrama Starring Deneuve and Depardieu

Political and romantic intrigues run parallel and then intersect in Francois Truffaut’s critical and commercial success, The Last Metro, a film that was inspired by Jean Marais’ memoir about the joys and pains of a Parisian troupe during WWII.

In his multi-nuanced narrative, Truffaut blends effectively artistic ambitions, popular storytelling, and technical excellence, resulting in a high-quality but conventional film, the kind of which Truffaut himself had rebelled against back in 1959, as one of the leaders of the French New Wave.

“The Last Metro” explores the group dynamics of a theatrical troupe, operating in a climate defined by antagonism and fear.

As the story unfolds, the message—the power of artists, even when confined to silence and isolation—gets clear.  The plot concerns a theater’s struggles during the Occupation and Bernard Granger’s fight for the French Resistance.

In 1942, Lucas Steiner, a stage director takes refuge in the basement of his own theater to escape the Gestapo.  His wife Marion (Deneuve) must persuade the French authorities not to close the theater.  Soon she falls for the new actor, Bernard Granger (Gerard Depardieu), and a parallel story details their clandestine love affair.  The gloomy environment of the theater echoes the disorder of the Occupation and the tracking of the Jews.

When Marion is given a choice between loyalty to her husband and to her countrymen, her dilemma offers two solutions–both of which are acted out on stage during the play in a Pirandellian-like mode

The subtlety and quiet desperation with which these intrigues are explored are remarkable.

The director’s passion for filmmaking is expressed in the elaborate mise-en-scene and polished cinematography, by the Cuban maestro Nestor Almendros .

“The Last Metro” is one of a group of French films, which includes the stunning “Entre Nous” (1983), that capture vividly the feel of life in Paris under the Nazi’s regime.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Foreign Language Film

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The surprise winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar was the Russian entry, “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears.”

Running time: 135 Minutes.

Directed by François Truffaut

Released: June 1, 1980.

DVD: March 24, 2009