The Last Metro
|The Last Metro|
|Directed by||François Truffaut|
|Music by||Georges Delerue|
|Edited by||Martine Barraqué|
Les Films du Carrosse
TF1 Films Production
United Artists Classics
3,393,694 admissions (France)
Opening in 1942 during the German occupation of France, it follows the fortunes of a small theatre in the Montmartre area of Paris which keeps up passive resistance by maintaining its cultural integrity, despite censorship, antisemitism and material shortages, to emerge triumphant at the war’s end. The title evokes two salient facts of city life under the Germans: fuel shortages led people to spend their evenings in theatres and other places of entertainment, but the curfew meant they had to catch the last Métro train home.
In 1981, the film won ten Césars for: best film, best actor (Depardieu), best actress (Deneuve), best cinematography, best director (Truffaut), best editing, best music, best production design, best sound and best writing. It received Best Foreign Film nominations in the Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards.
The Last Metro was one of Truffaut's most successful productions, grossing $3,007,436 in the United States; this was also true in France, where it had 3,384,045 admissions, making it one of his most successful films in his native country.
On his way to start rehearsals at the Théâtre Montmartre, where he has been hired as male lead for a new production, young Bernard Granger tries to talk to an attractive woman, who repeatedly rebuffs him. When he arrives, she turns out to be the costume designer Arlette, a lesbian. He is taken to see the icily beautiful Marion, who is both owner of the theater and leading lady. Her Jewish husband Lucas is believed to have left Paris but is in fact living in the cellars, where Marion visits him each evening to bring books and food and talk about the new production. However Arlette is quite struck by Bernard, whom Lucas can just hear through a heating vent but never see. Unknown to anybody at the theater, Bernard is a member of a Resistance group and delivers the bomb that kills a German admiral.
The first night is loved by a full house but one of the newspaper reviews next morning is viciously hostile, damning the show as Jewish. The writer Daxiat, an anti-semite, hopes to oust Marion and take over her theatre. While cast and crew are celebrating their success in a night club, Daxiat enters. Bernard, furious that the man has insulted the gentile Marion, hustles him out to the street and pushes him around. Furious that Bernard has jeopardised her theatre, Marion refuses all contact with him offstage. One night, pretending to be air raid wardens, two Gestapo men start searching the theatre and it is Bernard who Marion turns to in desperation for urgent help in concealing Lucas and his effects. When Bernard's Resistance contact is arrested by the Gestapo, he decides to devote his life to the cause and give up acting. As he is clearing out his little dressing room, Marion comes in to say goodbye and the two make love on the floor.
After the war, Bernard returns to be male lead in a new play that the freed Lucas wrote while hiding. In it, the female lead played by Marion offers to share her life, but he claims he never really loved her. At the end of the opening night, Bernard, Marion and Lucas stand hand in hand to take the applause.
- Catherine Deneuve as Marion Steiner
- Gérard Depardieu as Bernard Granger
- Heinz Bennent as Lucas Steiner
- Jean Poiret as Jean-Loup Cottins
- Andréa Ferréol as Arlette Guillaume, the costume designer
- Paulette Dubost as Germaine Fabre, the older woman employed by the theatre
- Sabine Haudepin as Nadine Marsac, the young actress
- Jean-Louis Richard as Daxiat
- Maurice Risch as Raymond Boursier, the technician of the theatre
- Marcel Berbert as Merlin
- Richard Bohringer as a Gestapo Officer
- László Szabó as Lieutenant Bergen
- Jean-Pierre Klein as Christian Leglise, a resistant
- Franck Pasquier as Jacquot/Eric
- Rose Thierry as Jacquot's mother
- Martine Simonet as Martine Sénéchal
- Christian Baltauss as the actor replacing Bernard
- Rénata as Greta Borg, a singer in a club
- Hénia Ziv as Yvonne
- Jean-José Richer as René Bernardini
- Jessica Zucman as Rosette
- René Dupré as M. Valentin
- Alain Tasma as Marc
- Pierre Belot as the Hotel porter
- Jacob Weizbluth as Rosen
Truffaut had wanted to create a film set during the French occupation period for a long time, as his uncle and grandfather were both part of the French Resistance, and were once caught while passing messages. This event was eventually recreated in The Last Metro. Truffaut was inspired by the actor Jean Marais’ autobiography, basing the film on this and other documents by theatre people from during the occupation.
This film was one instalment—dealing with theatre—of a trilogy on the entertainment world envisaged by Truffaut. The instalment that dealt with the film world was 1973's La Nuit Américaine (Day for Night), which had won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Truffaut completed the screenplay for the third instalment, L'Agence Magique, which would have dealt with the world of music hall. In the late 1970s he was close to beginning filming, but the failure of his film The Green Room forced him to look to a more commercial project, and he filmed Love on the Run instead.
Truffaut began casting in September 1979, and he wrote the role of Marion especially with Catherine Deneuve in mind for her energy. Gérard Depardieu initially did not want to be involved in the film, as he did not like Truffaut’s directing style, but he was subsequently convinced.
Most of the filming took place in an abandoned chocolate factory on Rue du Landy in Clichy, which was converted into a studio. During shooting Deneuve suffered an ankle sprain from a fall, resulting in having to shoot over scenes at short notice. Scriptwriter Suzanne Schiffman was also hospitalised with a serious intestinal obstruction. The film shoot lasted fifty-nine days and ended on April 21, 1980.
A recurring theme in Truffaut’s films has been linking film making and film watching. The Last Metro is self-conscious in this respect. In the opening the film mixes documentary footage with period re-creations alongside shots of contemporary film posters.
Truffaut commented “this film is not concerned merely with anti-semitism but intolerance in general” and a tolerance is shown through the characters of Jean Poiret playing a homosexual director and Andrea Ferreol plays a lesbian designer.
As in Truffaut's earlier film Jules et Jim, there is a love triangle between the three principal characters: Marion Steiner (Deneuve), her husband Lucas (Heinz Bennent) and Bernard Granger (Depardieu), an actor in the theatre's latest production.
The film recorded admissions in France of 3,384,045.
Awards and nominations
- Academy Awards (USA)
- Nominated: Best Foreign Language Film
- National Board of Review (USA)
- Nominated: Best Foreign Language Film
- Boston Film Critics (USA)
- Won: Best Foreign Language Film
- César Awards (France)
- Won: Best Actor – Leading Role (Gérard Depardieu)
- Won: Best Actress – Leading Role (Catherine Deneuve)
- Won: Best Cinematography (Néstor Almendros)
- Won: Best Director (François Truffaut)
- Won: Best Editing (Martine Barraqué)
- Won: Best Film
- Won: Best Music (Georges Delerue)
- Won: Best Production Design (Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko)
- Won: Best Sound (Michel Laurent)
- Won: Best Writing (Suzanne Schiffman and François Truffaut)
- Nominated: Best Actor – Supporting Role (Heinz Bennent)
- Nominated: Best Actress – Supporting Role (Andréa Ferréol)
- David di Donatello Awards (Italy)
- Won: Best Foreign Actress (Catherine Deneuve)
- Golden Globe Awards (USA)
- Nominated: Best Foreign Film
- List of submissions to the 53rd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of French submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
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