The Last Metro
In occupied Paris an actress hides her Jewish, theatre director husband to protect him against Nazi persecution, in this enthralling exploration of humanity at its best and worst.
Featuring mesmerising performance from French cinema icons Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu, The Last Metro is a powerful character study set against the backdrop of fascist tyranny.
An award-winning, late-career masterpiece from director François Truffaut, this thrilling tale of resistance and tolerance is presented in a new 2K restoration.
BFI releases a new Blu-ray edition for François Truffaut’s The Last Metro presenting the film in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on a dual-layer disc. BFI is using a newer restoration and master performed in 2K in 2014, and taken from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative. The disc is a UK release and locked to region B.
I revisited the original Criterion Blu-ray released in 2009 (one I was very positive about at the time of its release) and was beyond horrified at how badly it has held up through the years. The noise level present in the red background of the opening credits’ red is staggering, and the presentation from there has a heavier digital look. The restoration was fine, for the most part, but the digital presentation was not up to snuff, and I’m going to put my positive reaction to it at the time coming down to me still not being entirely familiar with the capabilities of the format.
BFI’s presentation is substantially cleaner in comparison to Criterion’s the grain rendered in a far more natural looking manner. This leads to a sharper image with more detail and depth, as well as a nicer film texture that is sorely lacking on the Criterion presentation. Shadow detail is also better thanks to a wider range in the blacks, and the colours have a nicer pop, especially the pinks and the reds. It’s a nice-looking digital master and a nice looking encode.
There are a handful of small scratches that remain, but the restoration work has cleaned the film up wonderfully and it does look cleaner in this regard compared to Criterion’s older presentation. It looks great delivers a vast improvement over Criterion's own release.
BFI presents the film’s soundtrack in lossless PCM 2.0 monaural. It’s perfectly fine, sharp and clean with superb fidelity, but range is still limited, the louder moments maybe coming off a little muffled. In all, it works for the film.
BFI’s edition sadly doesn’t live up to Criterion’s rather stacked edition but they throw in a handful of worthwhile material. They do include the same audio commentary that has popped up on many DVDs and Blu-rays through the years, featuring actor Gerard Depardieu, historian Jean-Pierre Azema, and Truffaut biographer Serge Toubiana, presented in French with optional English subtitles. The track can also be found on Criterion’s disc. I sampled it this time around, but this is what I said about it before and I think the comments still hold true:
Azema and Toubiana actually take up most of the track, and Depardieu only rings in once in a while, mainly during the last half of the track [and] only chimes in about certain sequences in the film, [talks about what it was like] working with Truffaut, and [comments on] some of the other performers. Azema seems to only be there to confirm that the film is [mostly] accurate in its representation of its subject matter. He does expand on a lot of things, though, getting into more detail about the laws for theaters, film, and media in general, talks about the newspapers mentioned in the film, the resistance, and gets into the fashions of the period, even hair styles. I’m a history buff so I did enjoy some of the content, but it is weak, filled with dead spots, and should have had more meat to it.
BFI also includes another commentary, this one featuring film scholar Annette Insdorf, who also provided a commentary for Criterion’s edition. Instead of simply licensing that track from Criterion BFI has Insdorf record an all-new one. What’s interesting about the track is that is more-or-less the same as the Criterion one, more than likely following a similar script. It’s not exactly the same though, as it features references to more recent films that may have been inspired by The Last Metro in some way (like Inglourious Basterds and Parasite for example) and she also expands on a handful of topics. Despite the similarities it's still a good track and I enjoyed going through an updated version of it.
BFI’s edition also ports over a couple of features that are also found on Criterion’s edition: on top of the film’s trailer the disc also includes a 5-minute deleted scene, upscaled from standard definition. The scene, featuring Marion and Valentin discussing a script he had shown her, was originally cut by Truffaut when he felt the film was running too long, reflecting what Insdorf says about the director’s concern over his audience in her commentary. Not mentioned here, but mentioned in Criterion’s notes, is that the scene was edited back into a handful of prior home video releases and I assume it wasn't in this restoration (or Criterion's previous restoration) because Truffaut wanted it removed.
The disc then closes with a short self-playing image gallery with a handful of production and publicity photos. BFI also includes one of their excellent booklets, this one featuring an essay about the film by Pasquale Iannone, followed by a second essay by Catherine Wheatley, which is an entertaining read about the possible reason as to why Truffaut may have fallen out of favour with critics, or, at least, British critics, in the latter portion of his career. The booklet then features a couple of contemporary reviews for The Last Metro: one from Monthly Film Bulletin, the other from Sight & Sound .
The features are not as plentiful when compared to Criterion’s edition, but both Insdorf’s commentary and the included booklet both do an exceptional job covering the film and Truffaut’s later career.
Though not as stacked as Criterion’s edition when it comes to features, BFI’s edition still packs on some worthwhile material and features a significantly stronger looking presentation.