Occupied Paris in 1942 is the setting for the most commercially successful film by French auteur François Truffaut (The 400 Blows, Jules et Jim).
Relative day-to-day normalisation exists under Nazi control. Run by Marion Steiner (Catherine Deneuve – Belle de jour, Indochine), the Montmartre Theatre is in rehearsal for a new production, a play originally slated for her critically-acclaimed director-husband. As a Jew, Lucas Steiner (Heinz Bennent – Possession, The Tin Drum) has been forced out. Unbeknownst to anyone, he is in hiding in the cellar. The arrival of Gérard Depardieu (Cyrano de Bergerac, Danton), a new co-star and member of the Resistance, threatens not only the secret but also the stability of the Steiners’ marriage.
Truffaut paints the oppressive atmosphere of daily life in occupied Paris, with dangers posed by the French as well as German (a virulently anti-Semitic newspaper critic in particular). But it’s all somewhat superficial and non-threatening. There’s an odd nostalgia to proceedings, a sense of remove that fails to connect.
Nominated for the 1981 best foreign language film Oscar.