That’s not to say it’s a horrible film, but it’s certainly the French New Wave master’s least focused. Unsure whether to make it solely about the Nazis’ occupation of France during World War II or an intimate look at the theatre scene of that era, or whether to write it as a suspense or a romance or a comedy, Truffaut opts instead for a muddled combination.
The film--a Best Foreign Language Film nominee--stars Catherine Deneuve as Marion Steiner, a Gentile wife who takes over the Montmartre Theatre while her Jewish husband, Lucas (Heinz Bennent), thought to have fled to South America, hides in the basement beneath the stage. She hires actor Bernard Granger (Gérard Depardieu, in one of his best roles)--a member of the Resistance--to star in what could be the theatre’s swan song, Disappearance, which was to be directed by Lucas.
The best moments in The Last Metro come when Lucas decides to ghost-direct the play from the basement, giving directions to Marion in between rehearsals. It’s his only way of remaining sane during his isolation, which he spends listening to “lies” on the radio.
But just when the story is on Lucas, it shifts to Marion and Bernard’s blossoming and misplaced romance. And when the focus is on the love story, it shifts again to the Nazi’s control on the streets of Paris. And when the attention is placed on the occupation, it shifts again to a young actress’s (Sabine Haudepin) starvation for stardom. And so on and on until every inescapable subplot--the antagonist critic Daxiat’s (Jean-Louis Richard) stranglehold on the Montmartre, Bernard‘s many attempts to get laid, et al.--is touched upon in what turns out, not surprisingly, to be Truffaut’s longest--and only bungled--feature.
Audio Commentary by Annette Insdorf: The author of François Truffaut provides an in-depth and scholarly track, noting the style, traits, and history of the late filmmaker, the context of The Last Metro, and much more. Insdorf is well-spoken, even if the track is a bit dry.
Audio Commentary by actor Gérard Depardieu, historian Jean-Pierre Azema, and Truffaut biographer Serge Toubiana: This second track might be a bit more difficult for some to get through, as the comments from the trio are presented in French with English subtitles. Still, it’s a solid track with a plethora of information in relation to the film and its historical context.
Deleted Scene (4:59): This scene, which was reinserted in a 1982 home video release, features a moment between Marion and Valentin.
Interviews: Director Truffaut and stars Deneuve and Depardieu appear on an episode of French television show Les nouveaux rendez-vous (10:46), with the two actors doing much of the talking, while the director discusses the themes and background of the film; Truffaut and actor Jean Poiret, on an episode of Passez donc me voir (6:29), sit down to discuss their films and reflect on the occupation; in Performing The Last Metro (14:55), actors Andréa Ferréol, Paulette Dubost, Sabine Haudepin, and second assistant director Alain Tasma happily reminisce about working on Truffaut’s 1980 film, sharing fond memories about the production; in the newly-recorded Visualizing The Last Metro (9:33), camera assistants Florent Bazin and Tessa Racine discuss working with late cinematographer Nestor Almendros, and the difficulties of achieving the unique look of The Last Metro; finally, in Working with Truffaut (28:05), which is available here in its rare entirety, Oscar-winning cinematographer Almendros (Days of Heaven) sits down for a 1986 interview to discuss his career, techniques, and the traits and influences of Truffaut.
Une histoire d’eau (12:14) is a 1958 short film--co-directed by Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard--featuring a man and a woman trying to flee a flooded Paris in his car. The film is a great addition to the disc for fans of both French New Wave filmmakers.
Also included is a 12-page booklet with an essay titled “Truffaut’s Changing Times” by New York Press film critic Armond White.