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Besson... or pre-Besson... only the name fit right already... anyone who sees the movie can feel that its director was aiming for higher points... all the movie (if you catch it in its widescreen edition) is filmed geometrically and Besson uses all the length of the field to capture emotions, moments, visions in a film that refuses to take itself seriously, and only wants to amuse people... if you're looking for the typical Besson movie, watch this one: style-breathing, visionary, gripping and good-humored. Eric Serra's score reflects perfectly not only all an atmosphere but also the evolution of a partnership between director and composer. Check out the way the film starts and never stops. I never saw a movie which reflected so perfectly an intense, artificial atmosphere, and a so vivid characterization of the labyrinths society can create and the sub-creatures that can live inside it... I wish I was French and that I was born 10 years earlier, so that I could live more of this movie when it came out, as well as all the movies by Besson. Oh well, I'll stick to reality and marvel at this finely crafted movie, which I never get tired of. 9 out of 10!!!
It would be difficult to describe "Subway." Fortunately, I threw it into the DVD player knowing only who directed it, who starred in it, and that it was set in the Paris Metro. Maybe that was a plus for me, since I had no idea where the serpentine, if occasionally silly, plot was going. Suffice it to say that Christophe Lambert is chased into the Paris Metro, clutching some files that Isabelle Adjani is desperate to get her hands on. Of course, there's a romance with them, and a number of supporting characters--a roller skating purse snatcher, a smart cop, a dumb cop, a philosophical flower vendor, etc. Like many Luc Besson films, this one is over the top from the get-go, a crazy ride to nowhere, surreal, perhaps, but a bit obtuse at times with its eye-rolling symbolism. But it's fun, especially the excessive 80s look of the costumes and hairstyles, and Eric Serra's synth-and-bass-heavy soundtrack. Between Lambert and Adjani, I have to reserve all the praise for the lady, who deliciously scores with superb comic timing.
When I first saw this movie I was magnetized by its unique atmosphere. Luc Besson created amazing out-of-genre movie. "Subway" inherits traditions of european films of the 70-ies and has something new and magnetic at the same time; and it is certainly Besson's most european film. Maybe it is the reason of it's not so high ratings by american critique. Strange, but Lambert's early and best roles in "Subway" and Marco Ferreri's "I love you" are crossed out by his later films. Talking about "Subway", this movie stands in a row of other films of the middle and the end of the 80-ies that were last before the sunset of european cinematograph and the wind of pan-american influence. And although many american movies are real masterpieces, two traditions can't be mixed. This is one of those cult films that create amazing style that can't be repeated. And although I find "Leon", "Nikita" and "5th element" really good movies, they all were commercial projects. And "Subway"... well, who saw it, they will understand. And maybe not. 10 out of 10.
At the time, a huge box-office hit in its native France - and as a
result of the rising popularity of lead actors Christopher Lambert and
Isabelle Adjani, something of a cult film in the UK - Subway (1985) was
seen as a companion piece to Jean Jacques Beineix's earlier art-house
classic, Diva (1981). Together, these two films can be seen as both the
development and the continuation of the concerns and preoccupations of
the then-newly dubbed "cinema du look" movement; a brief cinematic
resurgence in French cinema that saw a younger generation of filmmakers
looking back to the days of Godard, Truffaut and the Nouvelle Vague,
and combining that sense of playful experimentation with elements of
early 80's pop culture. It would be the film that finally introduced
director Luc Besson to a wider commercial audience outside of the
confines of the French art-house, and really - when looked at as part
of the natural progression of his career - seems light years away from
his first film, the wordless science fiction parable, Le Dernier
Combat/The Last Battle (1983).
The characteristics of the cinema du look movement involved preoccupations with doomed love and alienated Parisian youth, applied to a plot that was both cool and iconic. This can be seen quite clearly in Subway, with its mixture of film noir conventions, pop music, subterranean youth-culture, action and broad attempts at humour. As others have previously noted, the film and the style that it employs are very much of their time; presenting a very 80's take on listless youth replete with a central character that looks like Sting, a synthesiser heavy soundtrack that manages to work-in two specially composted New Wave pop songs, some shocking fashion choices (though most of these are admittedly back in vogue) and that general unique, indescribable feeling that you often get from many French films from this era; in particular Buffet Froid (1981), One Deadly Summer (1983), The Moon in the Gutter (1983), First Name: Carmen (1983) Hail Mary (1985), Betty Blue (1986), Mauvais Sang (1986), Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources (1986) and Besson's own subsequent picture, Le Grand Bleu (1988). Subway doesn't necessarily have much in common with these particular films in terms of style or content, but it does have a similar languid feeling, bizarre eclecticism or eccentricity, and an atmosphere that feels very much true to the country and the time it was produced.
Overall, the film could be seen by many viewers as something worryingly lightweight; with the knockabout plot, colourful caricatures and continual bombardment of cinematic style perhaps being seen as a smokescreen to the thin plot and ironic characterisations. Like Le Dernier Combat, the ultimate problem with the film is that it can't quite decide whether or not it wants to be an action film or art film; with the combination of the two very different styles never quite gelling in perfect harmony. The opening car chase and initial descent into the bowels of this subterranean underworld hidden deep beneath the Parisian Metro system seem to suggests that the film will be all high-style and high-energy. Subsequent scenes however take a step back, giving us some cool, neo-noir like interaction between Lambert's laconic safe-cracker and Adjani's bored trophy wife, while the opposing forces of police and gangsters begin closing in around them. It is the kind of film that will definitely appeal to a certain kind of viewer, perhaps a more mature audience who are open minded to cult European art cinema, or perhaps maybe a dedicated audience interested in seeing how the director of such highly acclaimed action thrillers, such Nikita (1991) or Leon/The Professional (1994), started out.
After first seeing the film a few years ago I wrote "This has no heart. It is an experiment in cinematic formalism; obsessed with technicality but also consumed by the self-indulgence", which to some extent still stands, but I think, with repeated viewings, I've come to enjoy the film and see more of an allure and attraction to the characters of Fred and Héléna, who, quite clearly, struggle throughout to maintain face and make the right decisions in a world that neither of them truly understands. As a result, it might just be the kind of film that takes a few viewings to truly captivate the audience, especially after drawing us in with that aforementioned car chase (which nods to Claude Lelouch's iconic 1974 short film C'était un rendez-vous, whilst simultaneously prefiguring much of the Besson-produced film series, Taxi). Subway clearly isn't a masterpiece. Like his first film, Le Dernier Combat, and the recent Angel-A (2005), it shows Besson at his most inventive and experimental, sampling from a variety of different genres and producing something that is chic and stylish, without ever being truly captivating. It is however an interesting film and one that will no doubt appeal to fans of some of the films aforementioned, chiefly Diva, Buffet Froid and Mauvais Sang, as well as some of Besson's own lesser-known works.
This is a pure exercise in style from the Luc Besson school of film
making. A handsome gangster joins ranks with a school of dropouts who
populate the Parisian subway system, hounded (but never phazed) by
transportation police. The trouble is that head honcho Fred has fallen
in love with the pretty but stroppy wife of one of his BCBG victims,
and strife ensues below the streets of gay Paree.
Christopher Lambert is amazing as the stylish rebel gangster with a heart, Fred; Isabelle Adjani is pretty but, as always, deeply annoying -- she just exudes arrogance from the bottom of her dainty little heart. On the sidelines we see an impossibly young Jean-Hugues Anglade, Jean Reno and Jean-Pierre Bacri. I actually didn't recognise Reno, that's how young and unknown he is here.
If you have a deeper interest in cinema, this is a straight ten. It's amazing how Besson brings together great style, action, fun, pace, acting, dialogue and amazing characters. Unlike most directors who film in the province and try to make it look like Paris, Besson films in Paris but makes it look like Metropolis.
Unfortunately, there isn't much of a plot and zilch suspense. The film starts with a heated heart-to-heart between Fred and pretty Héléna, and since we are aware that their affair can't end but unhappily (albeit in an incredibly chic way), the suspense is exactly zero. So if you just want entertainment, you should better pick one of Besson's later movies.
Truly I had no clue about what was going on in French director Luc
Besson's offbeat, but terribly jerky story involving a sly safe cracker
fleeing to the underground Paris Metro, after stealing some important
documents off a millionaire that he would try to ransom off to. The
bubblegum romantic-crime-drama premise is a washing machine filled with
ideas, which are hanging off a very loose, but unpredictable plot.
There's not much groundwork, but its impulsive nature, trivial gimmicks
and interesting urban environment just gets you caught in the
disjointed whirlwind of these strenuously adventurous situations,
melancholy despair and eccentric characters. The delirious script never
takes itself seriously (the humour is strong) and feels insignificant,
but it sure had many awkward and lumpy exchanges. Some passages feel
quite useless, and have poor continuity, but there's a certain charm
that's hard to resist. The English dubbed version sounds quite terrible
It's like Besson has thrown caution to the wind, and is experimenting with his visually sharp prowess and stylish verve to get any sort of impact and details through. His placement, pacing and overall enthusiasm is impeccable. Some action sequences, mainly the opening car chase scene is very well delivered. He draws so much form very little and never seems bounded by logic. From the get-go he storms right in and never lets the smoking composition, slick atmosphere sway off course. Brimming in is an electrifying tacky electronic / rock soundtrack (by Eric Serra) and Carlo Varini's camera-work beautifully illustrates Besson's characteristically moody framings. The worthwhile cast do an admirable job. Christopher Lambert's broodingly dry and grasping performance has an immensely hypnotic ambiance to it. An alluring Isabelle Adjani draws up an infectiously collected, and classy performance. There's enjoyably fine kooky support from Jean-Hughes Anglade, Richard Bohringer, Jean-Pierre Barcri, Michel Galabru and the always delightful Besson regular Jean Reno.
Besson's "Subway" is resourcefully fun and colourful pulp, if a rather jaded experience.
Before Christopher Lambert's downfall into garish sci-fi flicks such as
Highlander 2 & 3 and Fortress, he starred in some very good French films.
'Subway' is one of them.
The film opens in the midst of a car chase, and from there, Fred, the protagonist, finds himself sifting through the underground maze of the Paris Metro (or the subway).
During his escape from the authorities, he meets all sorts of colourful characters. Vagabonds and thieves who introduce him into the seedy underworld of the Paris Metro. The film keeps up a decent pace and the character study is of top notch.
A quality production. Eight out of ten.
This is a brilliant film worth watching several times. I have at least. But when I first found this film on VHS, I accidentally got the English dubbed version which more or less ruins the film as it is a French movie with particular emphasis on the French language and its articulation. When Gesberg, the head of police, refers to his two agents as "Batman" and "Robin", there is a hell of a lot difference between pronouncing it in English or French. Hear it for yourself and enjoy the movie. Very entertaining. The opening scene with the car chase really gets the movie going and it just keeps up the speed and at the same time remains ironic and tongue-in-cheek. A classic 80's movie!
I just purchased the Besson Movie set and watched Subway for the first
What can I say.. I loved this movie, it's a totally immersive experience,
simple and yet so effective.. a skill so seldom seen in today's pathetic
movie making "attempts".
It's so refreshing to see a director not afraid to use the film medium so efficiently to foretell a story.
This movie had a very unusual plot. It was basically unexplained, and at
end I was left wondering what I had just seen. It's not that the movie is
hard to follow, rather that it doesn't give you much to follow. The main
characters are never really defined outside of the specific events that
occur in the movie, and vague references to events immediately before the
beginning. Perhaps this was done on purpose, to avoid tying down the
identities of those who were involved, in an effort to create the
sympathetic characters most films aspire to. But it left me feeling like
The film included shady denizens of the Paris Metro, but I'm not sure it focused on them as much as I expected. I expected the film to be about a normal main character running across an unbelievable array of weirdos in the subway, but the weirdos simply weren't that weird. I think I've actually see weirder people in the Paris Metro in real life. Instead, the weirdness in the movie comes from its lack of definition. An unidentified main character having stolen mysterious "papers" from the unknown rich husband of some random woman he happened to meet on the street.
I'm not sure what the movie was trying to get at, but I think it was leaning toward inspiring spontaneousness in all things and the consequences that brings. It really didn't ring any bells of resemblance for me with any of Besson's newer movies (Léon, Fifth Element), even though it had a score by Eric Serra and Jean Reno made an appearance. It also had the Eighties stamped into and slobbered all over it.
I can only recommend this movie to Besson fans trying to get a bigger picture of his work, 80's freaks, or anyone interested in trying to decipher cryptic movies.
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