Melodrama and History

Melodrama and History

Any five minutes of Truffaut show his quickness, his intelligence, his authority in matching images with words, or using them to surprise each
other, and his unrelaxed interest in the progress of a story. He sets the pace better than other directors, and he varies it better. These qualities make his admirers partial: what Truffaut cannot do strikes them for that reason as less worth doing. But good things while we are caring for them all exist by exclusion, and I admit The Last Metro has made me exclusive again. It is not quite so fine as Shoot the Piano Player, Jules and Jim, The Wild Child, or Adele H, but it shares their spirit. The story is a love triangle. Lucas Steiner, a Jewish theater manager and director, is forced, during the Nazi occupation of Paris, to hide in the basement of his own theater. His wife Marion, who is not Jewish, and whose great beauty and dignity or stage have made her unassailable, attends to his needs. At the same time she takes charge of the theater, appeases a collaborationist newspaper critic whose judgment has become suddenly important, acquires a leading man, Bernard Granger, for her new production, and helps Steiner to direct the play in secret, by means of an auditor’s channel from stage to basement through which he hears every line of the company’s rehearsals. Bernard and Marion fall in love, but both remain essentially loyal to Steiner, and at the end, after the war but still on stage, all three are seen reunited.

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Duggan | University of California Press Gardels