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The Last Metro(1980)
Gérard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve star as members of a French theater company living under the German occupation during World War II in François Truffaut’s gripping, humanist character study. Against all odds—a Jewish theater manager in hiding; a leading man who’s in the Resistance; increasingly restrictive Nazi oversight—the troupe believes the show must go on. Equal parts romance, historical tragedy, and even comedy, The Last Metro (Le dernier métro) is Truffaut’s ultimate tribute to art overcoming adversity.
For more about The Last Metro and the The Last Metro Blu-ray release, see the The Last Metro Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 5, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Jean Poiret, Paulette Dubost, Jean-Louis Richard, Maurice Risch
Director: François Truffaut
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The Last Metro Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 5, 2009
"The Last Metro" (1980) is François Truffaut's greatest commercial success. In 1981 the film won a total of ten Cesar awards – including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Catherine Deneuve), Best Actor (Gerard Depardieu), and Best Cinematography (Néstor Almendros) – and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. The film was also Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu's first collaboration in front of the camera. Courtesy of Criterion.
The story of The Last Metro revolves around a group of Parisian actors preparing to stage "The Vanished Woman", a new play written by the Theatre Montmartre's Jewish director, Lucas Steiner (Heinz Bennet, The Death of Mario Ricci), who some believe has fled the country. Before the rehearsals begin, we meet the director's wife and actress, Marion Steiner (Catherine Deneuve, The Young Girls of Rochefort), who has decided to stay and take over her husband's business. We are also introduced to the flamboyant but very talented actor Bernard Granger (Gerard Depardieu, Camille Claudel) when he attempts to approach a beautiful woman on his way to the Theatre Montmartre. Finally, we meet Nadine Marsac (Sabine Haudepin, Hôtel des Amériques), a young actress determined to make it big.
Later on, we see Marion with a man hiding in the basement of the Theatre Montmartre. At first, we are unsure about his identity, but, as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that he is in fact Marion's Jewish husband. In the meantime, the last actor arrives – Arlette Guillaume (Andrea Ferreol, Letters to an Unknown Lover), the same woman Bernard has tried to pick up not too far away from the Theatre Montmartre.
The rehearsals begin. Bernard quickly attempts to win Arlette's heart, but is once again disappointed when he is told that she doesn't like men. Marion is intrigued by Bernard's persistence, but she is also focused on helping her husband flee France. Arlette goes after Nadine and the two are caught together by Marion.
"The Vanished Woman" is finally staged. It is received very well by the public and the Parisian press. Even the openly anti-Semitic critic Daxiat (Jean-Louis Richard, The Sentinel) has good words to spare about Bernard's performance. Somewhat surprisingly, however, Marion's husband, who has been able to listen to the performance of "The Vanished Woman" through a small hole in a pipe connecting the basement with the stage, tells his wife that he isn't pleased with the treatment his play has received. Marion is unsure how to respond to the harsh criticism and begins to suspect that her husband might actually be jealous of her stage partner. She becomes very upset because there is nothing between her and Bernard...yet.
Truffaut's The Last Metro strikes as a vivid social commentary on the artistic climate in France during the Nazi occupation. It captures marvelously the intensity of the social environment that all sorts of artists had to endure in order to continue working without being targeted by the new regime. Unsurprisingly, throughout the course of the film you would hear plenty of remarks addressing freedom of expression and censorship.
At its core, however, The Last Metro is undoubtedly a romantic film. In fact, despite of the nagging presence of the Nazis, all of the main protagonists reveal that they desire some sort of intimacy – even the suspiciously reserved Marion is eventually intrigued by Bernard's persistence to win Arlette's heart. We also see that the closer the actors become with each other, the more they begin to resemble the characters in "The Vanished Woman" they are asked to play.
Truffaut's much publicized love for theater is also impossible to ignore in The Last Metro. In fact, the film very much resembles an elaborate theater play with its somewhat minimalistic look; its story rarely leaves the Theatre Montmartre as well. It should not come as a surprise then that even when the main protagonists are not seen rehearsing, their lines sound awfully poetic.
Probably the key reason why The Last Metro became such an enormous hit in France, however, has to do with the fact that Truffaut avoided oversimplifying his characters (the successful Resistance subplot benefits from it a lot). As a result, even though we are often unsure about the true motivations behind the main characters' actions, we can easily relate to their struggles, pains and occasional triumphs.
The Last Metro Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Francois Truffaut's The Last Metro arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
As expected, Criterion deliver yet another fantastic package. I really did not have any doubts that this film would look superb on Blu-ray, but having seen how strong the actual transfer is, I am simply ecstatic; in the future, we should be able to see some remarkable treatments from the US distributors. This being said, contrast, clarity and detail are very impressive. Furthermore, there are absolutely no traces of DNR-manipulation that I could detect either. As a result, The Last Metro reveals a very film-like look with plenty of film grain that should please the purists amongst us. The color-scheme, however, is probably the most impressive feature of this new Blu-ray transfer; the reds are so lush and rich, at times I had a difficult time believing that this film was shot in the early 80s. Edge-enhancement and macroblocking are also not an issue of concern. Furthermore, I did not detect any disturbing scratches, debris, or stains to report here either. To sum it all up, Criterion's Blu-ray release of The Last Metro is very close to being absolutely perfect. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" release which you will not be able to play on your Region-B PS3s or SA. In order to view the content of this Blu-ray disc, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free player).
The Last Metro Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The only audio track available on this Blu-ray disc is French: Uncompressed Monaural. Generally speaking, this is a very pleasing mix without any serious issues that I could detect. Aside from a few tiny fluctuations during the opening scenes of the film (more than likely source related) the rest of the mix is just about perfect – the French dialog is crisp, crystal clear and very easy to follow. Furthermore, Georges Delerue's music also comes off the speakers in a very pleasing fashion. Finally, there were absolutely no cracks, pops, or hissings that I could detect. For the record, Criterion have provided optional (white) English subtitles.
The Last Metro Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
On this Blu-ray disc, you will find a deleted scene with Valentin (Rene Dupre) and Marion (Catherine Deneuve) which was removed from the original cut of the film, but was later on reinserted in the 1982 video release of The Last Metro. Les nouveaux rendez-vous - Francois Truffaut, Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu talk about The Last Metro in this excerpted 1980 interview from the French television program. The majority of the comments here pertain to the characters each of the actors plays as well as the very intimate nature of the story. Pasez donc me voir is another interview from a 1980 episode of the French TV program where Francois Truffaut and actor Jean Poiret discuss their work on The Last Metro and their memories of the occupation. Performing "The Last Metro" is a curious interview with actors Andrea Ferreol, Paulette Dubost, Sabine Haudepin, and second-assistant director Alain Tasma where they recall their work with Francois Truffaut. Visualizing "The Last Metro" offers an interview with camera assistants Florent Bazin and Tessa Racine where they recall their work with legendary cinematographer Nestor Almendros. Working with Truffaut: Nestor Almendros is a rare interview with cinematographer Nestor Almendros that was conducted in Paris in April 1986. It was excerpted in Rainer Gansera's 1086 documentary Arbeiten mi Francois Truffaut, produced by WDR, but for this edit, made exclusively for the Criterion Collection, Truffaut expert Robert Fischer constructed the interview in full from the only surviving elements.
Une histoire d'eau is a 1958 short film by Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut about the joy of filmmaking (shot in black and white, 1.33:1). Furthermore, this Blu-ray disc also contains two commentaries – the first commentary is by film scholar Annette Insdorf (Francois Truffaut; Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust) and was recorded excessively for the Criterion Collection in 2008; the second commentary is with actor Gerard Depardieu and historian Jean-Pierre Azema and moderated by Truffaut biographer Serge Toubiana. Both commentaries are very informative, but I personally prefer the second one with Mr. Azema, Mr. Depardieu and Mr. Toubiana as it is really more intimate in nature than the first commentary (the French commentary arrives with optional English subtitles). Finally, this Blu-ray disc also contains the original theatrical trailer for the main feature.
In addition to all of the extras found on the Blu-ray disc, Criterion have also provided a lovely booklet containing the very informative essay Truffaut's Changing Times by Armond White, a film critic for the New York Press and 2009 chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle.
The Last Metro Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This is a marvelous presentation of Francois Truffaut's The Last Metro. It is very much up to Criterion's high standards. The Blu-ray disc also offers an abundance of excellent supplemental materials (I strongly recommend that you listen to the commentary with Gerard Depardieu, Jean-Pierre Azema and Serge Toubiana). Very Highly Recommended.
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