One of the best movies I’ve seen since I started reviewing in the late ’70s is Francois Truffaut’s “The Last Metro.” The picture, newly available on DVD, opened the 1980 New York Film Festival and I remember parts of it better than I remember some films I saw last month (please make your own joke about senility here).
At any rate, “The Last Metro” is set during World War II, during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Actress/theater manager Catherine Deneuve keeps the curtain up while her Jewish husband, a famous director, hides out under his own stage.
Complicating matters is a newcomer to the company: a handsome young and, yes, comparatively slim and, double yes, very sexy Gerard Depardieu, who threatens to become Deneuve’s new leading man off-stage as well as on.
Truffaut, who, at 54, tragically died far too young of a brain tumor in 1984, is examining matters of commitment — to one’s conscience as much as to the ever-reliable smell-of-the-greasepaint/roar-of-the-crowd. With his customary humanity, he deliberates the delicate nature of collaboration, of how and when people take stands.
“The Last Metro” is courageous in its unashamed theatricality, unapologetically theatrical about acts of courage. We see that in the best of times or the worst of times some people simply behave better than others. And that there can be threads of quiet defiance in even the most seemingly acquiescent acts.
One beauty of the film is that, in seeking it out, you’ll be introduced to one of the best sources of important movies-on-DVD there is: the Criterion Collection. Check them out at criterion.com.
Perhaps even more crucially, “The Last Metro” may re-introduce (or introduce) you to Truffaut and persuade you to view more of his work. Topping the recommended list is “Day For Night,” “Jules and Jim,” “The 400 Blows,” “Small Change,” “The Wild Child,” “Stolen Kisses,” and “The Story of Adele H.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Eleanor Ringel Cater, a founding contributor to likethedew.com, wrote this article for the Georgia Online News Service, which distributed it to newspapers and Web sites.