A theatrical historical drama about a theatre in 1940s Paris
- The Last Metro review by PJ
On his way to start rehearsals at the Théâtre Montmartre, in Paris under German occupation, in the 1940s, where he has been hired as the male lead for a new production, Bernard Granger (G Depardieu) flirts with a woman: that is how the movie starts.
The film is about the staging of a play during these troubled times. The chief censor is a repellent French character who is pro-Nazi and rabidly anti-Semitic. Matters are made more complicated by the fact the owner of the theatre (C Deneuve) is the wife of a German Jew who has disappeared: he has fled to South America.
Despite the strong historical background, it is not really a historical drama in the conventional sense, because much of the film is about the theatre itself, and the play, and various sentimental intrigues going on (or not) among the chief characters -- in the manner of a 19th-century French play, in fact.
The acting is oddly theatrical and feels stilted, more particularly as far as G Depardieu and C Deneuve are concerned. He tends to overdo it and sounds like he is playing a part, whether he is playing a part on stage, as part of the play in the movie, or actually playing his part off-stage, in the film. He comes across as naive and clumsy, much of the time. C Deneuve is her usual self: cool, aloof and self-controlled -- ice-cold even when she tries to convey emotions of any kind. (From what we read in the press, that is actually how she is in real life, so, she is basically playing the ice-cold beautiful blonde that she is in real life.)
Because of all this, the film feels more like a play than a movie. It feels theatrical and contrived, a little bit old-fashioned: it was shot in 1980 but it feels more like a film that might have been produced in the 1950s or early 1960s. Maybe this is deliberate: an attempt are re-creating the 1940s style within the movie, as it were. But it only works up to a point.
The result is a sort of disconnect between the theatricality of the film and its subject matter, and it is not clear whether it is deliberate on the part of the director or merely a consequence of some pretentious, stilted and formalistic angle adopted by F Truffaut.
The conclusion is that it is a good film, but it has its weaknesses. It is enjoyable, but it is not the masterpiece many seem to believe it is, more particularly in France where it is frequently talked about as an unmissable chef d'oeuvre. I would still recommend it: it is interesting and it will make you think about all of these issues after you have seen it.
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