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Subway [DVD]
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on 31 July 2003
I saw this film when it was first released at the Camden Plaza (now a video shop, sadly, but back in 1985, it showed all of the Artificial Eye and other foreign and arthouse releases) uncountable times and though I haven't seen it since, it made an indelible mark on my consiousness and there are sections which I can still quote and smile over.
It is about a man, Fred played by Christopher Lambert, who loves birthdays and hates safes and who, while hiding out in the Paris Metro, meets an assortment of oddball characters and falls in love with Isabelle Adjani and who wouldn't!
It is simple, funny, sweet and innocent in a sort of post punk way and is quite the best thing that Christpher Lambert has ever done IMHO.
It is also a must for anyone who melts into mush at the sound of Rickie Lee Jones' dulcet tones. The setting of 'Lucky Guy' is just gorgeous.
It is a perfect film for all the incurable romantics out there and anyone who wants an escape from the toils of everyday life into a fairy tale world that never existed, will never exist but wouldn't it be lovely if it did.
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on 25 November 2009
After a typically wild and funny car chase from French master Luc Besson, the protagonist heads underground into the Paris Metro, never to emerge for the duration of the picture. And, after being chased by thugs, he then heads behind-the-scenes, as it were, to the non-public areas of the vast system where he meets the denizens of a complex subterranean culture. This is the premise of Besson's wonderful early film, Subway.

Mr. Besson sets the stage in this one for his action series, Taxi, complete with loveable characters, villains, fast edits, fast action, great actors working in ensemble. First among these is Christophe Lambert, fresh off his success as Tarzan so he is suitably athletic, young and achingly handsome in a blonde punk haircut. His character, Fred, has fallen for Isabelle Adjani as Elena -- and who can blame him? Her slow entrance, down a staircase in the subway in a glorious cocktail dress of gray silk, is full of portent for the fun to come. Elena had invited Fred to her house for a party, where he promptly blew the safe (because he 'can't stand safes'), stole papers, and he is now pursued by her not-so-nice husband and his henchmen.

Other inhabitants of the underground world include Jean-Hugues Anglade as a thief on skates, Jean Reno as a drummer in the band Fred wants to manage, and a host of recognizeable French character actors obviously delighted to work with Besson.

Mr. Lambert's French is perfect, though born American, because he was raised in Switzerland by his diplomat father. He was a French star before the Highlander film made him an American megastar. It is wonderful to see such actors in their youth, looking so beautiful, and having such a good time. This is a hallmark of a Besson film and the fun is infectious.
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on 10 April 2017
Loved this when I first saw it - super cool dvd, apart from the big shoulder 80's fashions. Christopher Lambert's character is extremely engaging, as are some of the minor characters, and the Parisienne Subway is a great backdrop. Still love it now!
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on 1 August 2017
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on 19 May 2017
Old but good ,one of luc bessons first major movies.
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VINE VOICEon 16 September 2009
Subway is my favourite film of all time, the action, fluidity of it, and the new-wave look is just so cool, so when I heard they were going to put it on Blu-Ray I was very excited, maybe a little too much, as I was expecting great things. I feel a bit disappointed with it to be honest, but first lets talk about the film for those who don't know it.

Fred is a hipster who loves cracking safes, and just likes birthdays. He meets Helena, a beautiful bourgeois woman who lives outside Paris, and falls in love with her. When he's at her home he blow up a safe and steals some important papers which belong to her husband. He has to flee, and to the metro system he goes, and meets all sorts of bizarre characters he'd never expect to be living in the subway.

This is a fantastic film, beautifully crafted by Luc Besson, and captured beautifully by Carlo Varini, who has made good work of the cinematography, with it's stylish look and nouvelle vague style. The whole movie is just so cool and modern, but does look a bit dated today. He captures the metro system as I remember it, and the tunnels are nice and dark like they are in real life. Both Isabelle and Christophe are amazing in this, and should have got awards for their work, especially Christophe for his moody portrayal of Fred, and Jean-Pierre Bacri for his role as Batman. Those of you eagle eyed will notice Luc Besson's driving the metro when the roller jumps over the rails!

The Blu-Ray is disappointing - I was really hoping for better, the colours are good but not the best and the sound isn't the best - my old Sony DVD was better than this sound wise. The image does look more human, but I have noticed colours come in and out of the picture. The bitrate is good though, 30MB/s VC, but the LPCM 2.0 audio isn't good, and the mixing of the music is not as good as it was on the Sony DVD.

There are no extras on this disk neither, which is a crying shame, you get the trailer but this was on the French release, at least we don't have that horrible English dub which was shocking now, but there's only English subtitles - very disappointing!

Again, not sure who this is aimed for, there's nothing new for fans like myself who love Subway - yet it's not really a beginner's Blu either, because it's just so bare. I just hope one day we get to see this "making of" Jean-Hugues Anglade was alleged to have made back in the 80s - and the deleted scenes, there is at least 40 minutes of deleted stuff Luc never used, and it would be a horrible thing to never see them,as this is one of the best movies ever made.

Not convinced at all :(
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 10 August 2009
When the film opens it looks a bit like a French Blues Brothers - with trendy suited types involved in a car chase around the city.
The car chase is the start of an attempted escape from arrest, and Fred succesfully evades the police after crashing down into the subway. He spends the rest of the film there...

The doors to the areas of the underground system which everyday Parisians never see is like a portal to another world, an alternate way of life. Fred meets various characters there who spend most of ther lives down in the bowels of the Paris metro system like renegade Phantoms of the Opera, they exploit the commuters and evade the law, hidden by the labrythine system of corridors and defunct offices.

In direct comparison to Fred; the woman from whom he robbed from feels crushed in her wealthy yet unhappy marriage. Helena seems to live a rigid life adhering to strict social ettiquette, meanwhile Fred is carefree - meandering the underground, disregarding authority, and stopping to enjoy the buskers. Interactions with the strange are met with a mutual regard for each other, he shows her that rules are meant to be broken.

This is a strange film in so far as it isn't massively entertaining, but you appreciate the artistic value when you watch it. There's little actual plot but the characters are intriguing. There's an obvious message with members of society turning their backs on the regular way of life and sticking two fingers up to Capitalist society. The soundtrack dominates and the band performances will have you smiling and tapping your feet.

In a nutshell: A beautiful woman from the wealthy suburbs is drawn to the man who blew up her safe and stole her files, she starts to envy him even. Meanwhile his antics and meetings whilst hiding out in the Metro reflect the spirit of the '80s Punk movement in Europe, we see a new sub-culture replacing the old establishment. If it weren't for the frenetic energy of Subway, and the fact that it manages to capture the spirit of change during a decade where youth felt disillusioned by the old-system then this would be a film considered 'interesting but of little substance'. But it does have those things, although this is set in a very specific environment, it reflects wider society and brings to the screen the rebellion of a decade which saw massive change throughout Europe.
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on 18 February 2008
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.
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on 11 August 2008
From it's opening car chase (with it`s loud soft rock soundtrack and brightly sunlit look it could have been shot by Tony Scott), it's fairly clear that Luc Besson's quintessentially '80's Cinema du Look classic is going to be a film about style. And from there on, daylight's hardly seen again at all as we enter a dark world of smoke and neon. A quirky, offbeat New Wave gem of a movie, Subway is intentionally plot- lite but extremely heavy on stunning imagery. British and American critics often entirely miss the point and bemoan it's shallowness, but that's kind of like complaining about an instrumental piece of music for having no vocals.
It's important to remember this is a Besson film, the man whose previous picture, Le Dernier Combat (1983) featured a grand total of two words of dialogue, so it's fairly safe to say Subway too is about doing, rather than saying (out of it's five screenwriters listed at the start, only one is credited with "Dialogue", although the whole idea of any kind of story was an afterthought to all the super- cool music video visuals).
Christopher Lambert, in probably his best French film before Highlander convinced him he had to become a Hollywood action star (and ultimately end up languishing in DTV hell after a few ultra- violent misadventures too far), plays Fred, a blonde, spiky- haired punk in a tuxedo that's probably not his. A kind of anarchic James Bond, Fred's stolen some important documents from the rich husband of young trophy wife Helena ( a gorgeous Isabelle Adjani) and gone into hiding underground, quite literally, in the Paris metro system.
Various cops and hitmen are then sent after him but Fred finds time to flirt with Helena, befriend the subway's other strange inhabitants in his bizarre (but of course, beautifully shot) subterranean world and even start a band, recruiting various buskers (including Besson's regular composer Eric Serra on bass and a young Jean Reno with hair on drums) and staging their first gig at a metro station.
Watching Subway is immensely enjoyable as long as you don't try to take it too seriously, although for anybody with an aversion to 1980's fashions and music it's probably not recommended, it may be just what Beeson was going for, but on this evidence the French seemed to take the decade's extremes even further than most. It's an incredibly offbeat, whimsical, almost fairytale- like movie (Fred refers to Helena as "Cinderella") that seems to take place just the other side of the real world, kind of like watching Goddard by way of John Carpenter or Walter Hill's The Warriors or Streets of Fire. It's no coincidence that other filmmakers generally seem to be on the "Love" side of this "Love or Hate" movie.
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on 28 March 2007
I absolutely love ths movie. It's a sleek stylish adventure in superficial sophistication through the Metro, every scene an opportunity to frame and impress. Lambert and Adjani provide characters which although shallow are delightful to watch, each in their own way. So why only one star? Well, my french, rusty now, was never too hot anyway so I tried to watch with the subtitles on. For some reason on my copy only about a quarter of the dialogue is actually subtitled, and it's not even the difficult stuff. I suppose the film was never really about the words but I personally found this to be incredibly distracting. So I watched with English dubbing. And that is even worse. If you saw it when it came out please avoid this version, if you are just curious in the genre invest in Diva instead, at least the music might move you to tears.
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