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Film / The Last Metro

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The Last Metro is a 1980 film by François Truffaut, starring Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu.

Occupied France, late 1942. Marion Steiner (Deneuve) is an actress and the owner of a Paris playhouse, the Théâtre Montmartre. A few months prior Marion took over the theater after her Jewish husband Lucas fled Vichy France, presumably for Spain. Marion is staging a new play that her husband wrote shortly before he disappeared, one which she needs to be successful or the theater will go under. She has recently hired as the male lead in the play one Bernard Granger (Depardieu), an affable man who is a veteran of the Grand Guignol theater.

Marion and Bernard both have secrets. Marion is the only person who knows that her husband Lucas did not flee France, but has been hiding ever since his disappearance in the basement of the theater. And neither Marion nor anyone else in the theater troupe knows that when Bernard isn't acting in a play, he's working for the French Resistance.

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Tropes:

  • Cabin Fever: Lucas gets stir-crazy sometimes. At one point he freaks out and says he's going to leave the basement and turn himself in. A horrified Marion has to club him over the head to stop him.
  • Celebrity Paradox: With a little deliberate continuity error thrown in. A poster of Gerard Depardieu in the film 1900 can be seen on the wall of Bernard's dressing room.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The most prominent is Daxiat, a viciously anti-Semitic theater critic who works with the Germans and wants to get his mitts on Marion's theater.
  • Creepy Children Singing: A creepy children's choir singing what appears to be a Vichy France hymn sets an ominous mood when Bernard meets his Resistance contact in a church. Sure enough, the contact is arrested.
  • Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: Lucas is squinting and shielding his eyes when he emerges from the cellar into the daylight following the liberation of Paris, after being cooped up for 813 days.
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  • Gilligan Cut: On the night of the play's premiere, Marion assures her husband that "I'm perfectly calm." Then she climbs out of the basement, dashes into a restroom, and pukes.
  • Incompatible Orientation: A Running Gag has Bernard the cheerful horndog trying to get in the pants of Arlette the set designer, only for her to continually shoot him down. We eventually find out that Arlette is a lesbian.
    Bernard: Boy! I really was on the wrong track with her.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: A lot of quick panning and zooming of still photos in the opening montage in which an unseen narrator explains the setting.
  • The Last Title: Averted, since the reference is to the last metro of the day. (And it's a Trivial Title anyway.)
  • Love Triangle: Shows up out of nowhere in the third act, when Lucas says he knows Marion is in love with Bernard. Soon after this Marion and Bernard have goodbye sex.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Daxiat is based on Alain Laubreaux, a Real Life theater critic and violently anti-Semitic journalist who escaped to Spain after the liberation.
  • No Romantic Resolution: For the Love Triangle between the leads. The final scene has Marion and Bernard acting out a new play. Lucas, no longer hiding, acknowledges the applause after the play ends and joins them on the stage. Marion, who was holding Bernard's hand as they take their bows, moves to take Lucas's hand as well. The End, roll credits.
  • Oblivious to Love: Shortly after it's revealed that Arlette is a lesbian, we also find out that she has a crush on Marion.
    Arlette: She doesn't even know I exist!
  • Proscenium Reveal: What seems to be a final meeting between Marion and an injured Bernard in a hospital transitions into a scene that is the ending of a play. At first it is clearly "real"; the camera follows Marion through a hallway and a door and into a hospital ward, and people can be seen through the window in buildings across the street. Then when the film cuts back to Marion the formerly live people across the street have turned to scenery paintings. Then the camera pulls back, and the once-real scene has become the ending to a play starring Marion and Bernard and written by Lucas, who's in the audience.
  • La Résistance: Bernard steals a record player; that record player is later used as a bomb to kill a German officer. He goes to meet his contact only for the contact to wave him off, about five seconds before the contact is arrested by the Gestapo. At the end Bernard temporarily quits acting to work for the Resistance full-time.
  • Shout-Out: Lucas recalls seeing a play where the husband pretended to be going out, only for the dimming of the gaslight to reveal that he was up to no good in the attic. This is Gaslight, later twice made into a movie.
  • Show Within a Show: The Vanished Woman, a play written by Lucas in which Marion's character had a case of Easy Amnesia. Seems to be quite a hammy Melodrama.
  • Stocking Filler: Discussed Trope when two of the women in the troupe reveal that they are painting makeup on their legs to make it look like they're wearing stockings, stockings being hard to find in wartime France. Played straight near the end during Marion and Bernard's sex scene.
  • Stress Vomit: Marion upchucks before going onstage on the night the play premieres.
  • Title Drop: A couple of references to catching "the last metro", which you don't want to miss when Paris is under a curfew imposed by the occupying Germans.
  • Trivial Title: There's a reference or two to catching the last metro to avoid being caught outside after curfew, but neither the metro nor the curfew have any importance to the story.
  • Video Credits: An Iris Out onto Marion's face transitions to the start of the credits, with an iris of each actor.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A montage reveals some of the fates of the characters. Daxiat fled to Germany and eventually to Spain where he died some two decades later. Arlette continued to work in set design while Nadine continued to moonlight between stage and screen. Jean-Loup the director was arrested by the Resistance for...something (the film says his "connections", but he was not a collaborator). Then the montage leads us into the final scene with Marion, Bernard, and Lucas.

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