The last of Francois Truffaut’s films on the list, and the last for me to see, The Last Metro was the most financially successful film of his career, so it stands to reason that it must be pretty crowd-pleasing, something that Truffaut isn’t necessarily known for being. Well, if you’re looking for a blankly entertaining popcorn flick from this, you’re likely to be disappointed, but at the same time, if you’re expecting another off-beat Truffaut whimsy, this will likely not fit your preconceived notions either. Much like Day for Night, this film has a weight behind it, a passion that Truffaut knew how to channel, and he uses it to push this film into territory that only the brave dare to go.
Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu star as opposite leads in a play put on in a Parisian theater during the Nazi occupation of France. Deneuve is the interim manager of the theater, a role she is forced into after the occupation, due to the regular manager, her husband, being Jewish. Depardieu is a recent upcoming star in the theater scene, and is brought on as the lead in the next play. But there’s a secret – Deneuve’s husband isn’t gone; he’s in hiding in the cellar of the theater, and through a little jury-rigged hole in the walls, is able to hear the play as it is in rehearsal and give notes in secret through his wife. Truffaut plays the film like a neo-noir, and if pressed I would probably give it that label for lack of a better one. Seedy music, liberal use of darkness and shadow, and even a bit of the femme fatale in Deneuve’s character; everything down to the color palette just screams noir influences. Truffaut, much like Godard, has always been a director fascinated with the use of the spoken word in cinema, and The Last Metro is very much a talking heads film, framed with some exquisite cinematography. There are no ‘action sequences’, and even the ending is a bit of a whimper. This is a character study more than anything, and I have to admit, it didn’t hold my attention through the entire thing, but it was during the parts that did grab my attention that I ended up liking the film. The only problem was, these came along pretty much at random; each scene is pretty much the same as the scene before it, and in all honesty, I doubt I’ll be able to remember much about the specifics of the film, other than the look and feel of it – it just all blended into one big smear, instead of being shaped enough where each scene could potentially stand on its own.
This ended up sweeping the Cesar Awards, winning ten in all, including every major category. I liked the film in general, but I don’t know if I would call it the massive success that would warrant such incredible award contention. It was too similar across the board, and had a little too much dialogue for what would’ve worked for the film. Now, of course, dialogue is the key to writing a great stage play, and Truffaut’s love letter to the theater is precisely that, but that doesn’t mean it works well on the screen. The film is modestly saved by the production value and the character interaction, but for me to give this any higher a rating would be a bit of a lie to myself. You might have better fortune than I did, but this was merely an acceptable character study (and a nice tribute to the noir genre) for me, and I didn’t find very much more than that.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10