The Last Metro (French: Le Dernier Métro) is a 1980 historical drama made by Les Films du Carrosse, written and directed by the French filmmaker François Truffaut, and starring Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu.
The film is set during the time of the French occupation and demonstrates passive resistance through culture in the story of a small Parisian theatre surviving censorship, antisemitism and material shortages to emerge triumphant at the war’s end.
In 1981, the film won ten Césars for: best film, best actor (Depardieu), best actress (Deneuve), best cinematography, best director (Truffaut), best editing, best music, best production design, best sound and best writing. It received Best Foreign Film nominations in the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.
The Last Metro was one of Truffaut's most successful productions, grossing $3,007,436 in the United States; this was also true in France, where it had 3,384,045 admissions, making it one of his most successful films in his native country.
Set during the German occupation of Paris during the Second World War, it tells the story of Lucas Steiner, a Jewish theatre director and his Gentile wife, Marion Steiner, who struggles to keep him concealed from the Nazis in their theatre cellar while she performs both his former job as the director and hers as an actress.
The title The Last Metro refers to the fact that during the occupation it was imperative that Parisians catch the last train (Métro) home. This was to avoid breaking the strict curfew imposed by the Nazis. During the winter months of occupied Paris there was no way to obtain coal, and the only manner in which people could keep warm was attending plays in theatres, which ended just before the last train left.Catherine Deneuve as Marion Steiner
Gérard Depardieu as Bernard Granger
Heinz Bennent as Lucas Steiner
Jean Poiret as Jean-Loup Cottins
Andréa Ferréol as Arlette Guillaume, the costume designer
Paulette Dubost as Germaine Fabre, the older woman employed by the theatre
Sabine Haudepin as Nadine Marsac, the young actress
Jean-Louis Richard as Daxiat
Maurice Risch as Raymond Boursier, the technician of the theatre
Marcel Berbert as Merlin
Richard Bohringer as a Gestapo Officer
László Szabó as Lieutenant Bergen
Jean-Pierre Klein as Christian Leglise, a resistant
Franck Pasquier as Jacquot/Eric
Rose Thierry as Jacquot's mother
Martine Simonet as Martine Sénéchal
Christian Baltauss as the actor replacing Bernard
Rénata as Greta Borg, a singer in a club
Hénia Ziv as Yvonne
Jean-José Richer as René Bernardini
Jessica Zucman as Rosette
René Dupré as M. Valentin
Alain Tasma as Marc
Pierre Belot as the Hotel porter
Jacob Weizbluth as Rosen
Truffaut had wanted to create a film set during the French occupation period for a long time, as his uncle and grandfather were both part of the French Resistance, who were once caught while passing messages. This event was eventually recreated in The Last Metro. Truffaut was stimulated by the actor Jean Marais’ autobiography and by other documents of theatre people from during the occupation of which he based the film upon.
This film was one instalment—dealing with theatre—of a trilogy on the entertainment world that Truffaut had planned. The instalment that dealt with the film world was 1973's La Nuit Américaine (Day for Night), which had won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Truffaut completed the screenplay for the third instalment, L'Agence Magique, which would have dealt with the world of music hall. In the late 1970s he was close to beginning filming, but the failure of his film The Green Room forced him to look to a more commercial project, and he filmed Love on the Run instead.
Truffaut began casting in September 1979, and he wrote the role of Marion especially with Catherine Deneuve in mind for her energy. Gérard Depardieu initially did not want to be involved in the film, as he did not like Truffaut’s directing style, but he was later convinced.
Most of the filming took place in an abandoned chocolate factory on Rue du Landy in Clichy, which was converted into a studio. During shooting Deneuve suffered an ankle sprain from a fall, resulting in having to shoot over scenes at short notice. Scriptwriter Suzanne Schiffman was also hospitalised with a serious intestinal obstruction. The film shoot lasted fifty-nine days and ended on April 21, 1980.
A recurring theme in Truffaut’s films has been linking film making and film watching. The Last Metro is self-conscious in this respect. In the opening the film mixes documentary footage with period re-creations alongside shots of contemporary film posters.
Truffaut commented “this film is not concerned merely with anti-semitism but intolerance in general” and a tolerance is shown through the characters of Jean Poiret playing a homosexual director and Andrea Ferreol plays a lesbian designer.
As in Truffaut's earlier film Jules et Jim, there is a love triangle between the three principal characters: Marion Steiner (Deneuve), her husband Lucas (Heinz Bennent) and Bernard Granger (Depardieu), an actor in the theatre's latest production.
The film recorded admissions in France of 3,384,045.
Awards and nominationsAcademy Awards (USA)
Nominated: Best Foreign Language Film
National Board of Review (USA)
Nominated: Best Foreign Language Film
Boston Film Critics (USA)
Won: Best Foreign Language Film
César Awards (France)
Won: Best Actor – Leading Role (Gérard Depardieu)
Won: Best Actress – Leading Role (Catherine Deneuve)
Won: Best Cinematography (Néstor Almendros)
Won: Best Director (François Truffaut)
Won: Best Editing (Martine Barraqué)
Won: Best Film
Won: Best Music (Georges Delerue)
Won: Best Production Design (Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko)
Won: Best Sound (Michel Laurent)
Won: Best Writing (Suzanne Schiffman and François Truffaut)
Nominated: Best Actor – Supporting Role (Heinz Bennent)
Nominated: Best Actress – Supporting Role (Andréa Ferréol)
David di Donatello Awards (Italy)
Won: Best Foreign Actress (Catherine Deneuve)
Golden Globe Awards (USA)
Nominated: Best Foreign Film