February 21, 1981 [The Last Metro]

François Truffaut's The Last Metro ends like Blazing Saddles--in reverse: his characters enter the fictional world of the play they have been staging. This is not their fault: Truffaut has not given them a "real" world in which to be characters, but a Casablanca-styled 1940s--a world on the brink of action against tyranny that the occupied French cinema had no chance to film. But Truffaut does, in an almost-un-ironic simulation of Technicolor, Catherine Deneuve as gorgeous as Ingrid Bergman, her two loves vying--while love itself, along with the world, hangs in the balance, a Golden Age movie poster come to self-conscious life. Actual French films during the war had to eviscerate any "Jewishness" and looked to fantasy and melodrama; The Last Metro takes hold of that and re-imagines Anne Frank as a Jewish director hiding in his own theater, ghost-directing a play while converting his life into a performance, "a little life rounded with a sleep"--but, like Casablanca, no sleep yet: They survive, perhaps triumph--still waiting for The End, but confident.

It's this optimism--punctuated by the enthusiastic announcer whose newsreels and historical summaries give the movie a Citizen Kane-like winking gusto--that stays with me, the assertion that life imitates art--while art gives life meaning, two hours at a time. Gérard Depardieu as the lead--in both the film and the play-within-the-film--is charming and passionate, pursuing one woman fruitlessly--she too is acting, even though not an actress--while falling a little for his co-star. His smiles for them and his seething rage against the Nazis fuel that optimism: Anyone can tell good from evil, and should. together, the troupe reminds me that a little thing like a play--a movie--does not need to do more than it should--but that "should" is a real word.


  1. This is one of my favorite films by Truffaut. I think I liked "Day for Night" better when it comes to late Truffaut, but this is still a fantastic film.

  2. "Day for Night" was the 2nd Truffaut film I saw on the big screen--after "Fahrenheit 451." I haven't seen it in years, but I can still remember how much we talked about it afterward. I also like "DFN" better--I think; need to see it again--than "Last M."


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