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Fox Lorber presents
"I listen to the sounds of the theater, wait for your foosteps on the stairs. I wait for you to come. I wait and wait...I can't wait anymore!"
DVD ReviewThe first "foreign" film I ever saw was Truffaut's Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim). I was 17, my first time at the old Biograph Theater in Chicago, and I wasn't quite certain of what I had seen. It was black & white, so I assumed it was older than it was. But more stunning to me was the concept of a woman with 2 lovers, and how they all got along. I sat through it again, and realized there was MORE—that this story of these fragmented affairs, lovers and spouses was a metaphor for Europe itself after the Great War. This wasn't Hollywood, this was visual poetry. I had caught the New Wave and Truffaut was its crest for me. I confess to being unmovably biased: It is impossible for Truffaut to do wrong in my eyes. And while others argue over his later films, I treat all I have seen with the same awe of a 17-year-old neophyte.
Winner of 10 Cesar Awards, The Last Metro is set amidst the tension and (deserved) paranoia of occupied Paris. The scene is set for us from the beginning, against a sort of newsreel, propagandist background, as the narrator explains the public and political climate of France in 1942. The title derives from the 11pm curfew that sent Parisians, who flocked to the theater houses to keep warm, in mad rushes to catch the last train home.
One of these houses, Theatre Montmartre, was the success of its Jewish director, Lucas Steiner (Bennent), who is presumed to be safely out of the country. We find his wife Marion (Deneuve), a popular actress, leading a double life: she runs the business of the theater and caretakes her husband, who is actually hidden its cellar.
Marion stages a new play, casting Bernard Granger (Depardieu) as her leading man while Steiner directs through notes he goes over with her in the evening. Granger, an incorrigible ladies' man, has his own secret—moonlighting for the resistance. There is a palpable tension between Marion and Bernard as she upholds any pretense in order to keep her secret and he, his. Meanwhile, the nazis circle closer and closer to the theater.
Deneuve is brilliant as the uncompromising wife who sacrifices everything for her husband and their theater. She holds everything so close to her chest I almost missed when Marion the woman fell in love with her co-star. Bennent is perfect as the stir-crazed auteur who passes his days annotating his direction by an old duct under the floorboards, listening to the growing anti-Semitism of the world outside on the radio. A handsome young Depardieu is stunning in his role as the radical Granger, who falls for the one woman he cannot have.
Truffaut meant this Oscar® nominated film to portray Parisian life under nazi occupation, and although the pacing is often painfully slow, it is a successful device in building tension and suspense in the Hitchcock tradition, but without the payoff: The Last Metro actually has a happy ending.
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: The contrast is correct and the colors natural and clean. Close-ups of Deneuve are luminous...but then, that's likely just her. There was one horizontal streak about 30 minutes into the film, but it did not reoccur. At 0:56:30 there is a large black spot on the right center edge of the screen (a reel spot?) that is rather hard to have missed. But there was only the slightest dirt and dust, really a pretty clean transfer.
The subtitles cannot be turned off, could be annoying for native French speakers.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: As there is not much outside of dialogue in this film, and that being French, it is a bit difficult to rate this transfer. The tone was even within the natural fluctations of language and emotion. No noticable hiss or distortion.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
9 Other Trailer(s) featuring The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, Two English Girls, The Woman Next Door, Confidentially Yours, Stolen Kisses, Soft Skin, Bed & Board and Love on the Run
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsFrançois Truffaut has given us a realistic backstage view of theater life during the occupation, a bit of Anne Frank meets Children of Paradise (the latter was supposedly filmed in secret during the occupation) with the mise en scene of Bergman. He builds our suspense as we come to both trust and mistrust his characters—much as I can imagine the conquered Parisians suspected each other as the years went on. Well done, and very recommended.
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