Subway 1985 [2012]


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Cinema du Look.

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Subway 1985 [2012]

  1. 1. Subway (1985) Directed by Luc Besson In 1985, the French Academy of Cinema deemed Luc Besson's Subway worthy of three Cesars for actor Christopher Lambert, production design, and sound. Today, it can be difficult for modern audiences to determine exactly what they saw in the film to reward it so. Some would think that few films have aged as poorly as this one. The music, the hair, the clothes, the electronic score, the arch humour— Subway is in all ways a product of the 1980s.
  2. 2. Fred grabs some important papers from Helena's safe after inviting himself to her birthday party, which leads to a chase through the streets of Paris and down to an alternate world... On the surface it‘s a love story; Fred, a wannabe musician with safe-blowing up fetish (played by Christophe Lambert) and Helena, a bored socialite/housewi fe who feels trapped in a loveless marriage (played by Isabelle Adjani). ... that of the Metro.
  3. 3. There we meet an eclectic group of people who, for whatever reason, choose to live in an underground society. The main plot centres around Fred attempting to persuade Helena that he loved her at first glance, which she goes along with because she has nothing better to do. One sub-plot involves the frantic attempts of Helena's husband and henchmen to get the stolen papers back; another pits two bumbling officers (Batman Jean-Pierre Bacri & Robin Jean-Claude Lecas) against a bag-snatching Roller, seedily played by Jean-Hugues Anglade.
  4. 4. 26-year-old director Luc Besson created this tongue- in-cheek look at filmmaking and at the denizens in the tunnels of the Paris Metro - a new kind of underground movie.
  5. 5. All the while Fred blackmails rich woman Helena with whom he is in love. Meant as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on urban life, the film works best as a light freewheeling entertainment, with well- constructed fast-paced action sequences and a breezy sense of humour about itself. Subway is an intriguing diversion and a chance to see the cutting- edge of contemporary French moviemaking. 80s Cinema Besson Bio This is an early work from director Luc Besson, Subway is a dark and highly stylised picture. One sub-plot is Fred‘s whimsical desire, whilst living in the underground and eluding both gangsters and Metro police, to start a rock band with a group of colourful and quirky subterranean inhabitants he meets.
  6. 6. Characters and Themes in Subway (and "The Big Blue", "Nikita" and "Leon―). Main characters and society I The principal characters in "Subway", "The Big Blue", "Nikita" and "Leon" all have at least one thing in common – they are all loners or outcasts from society. They do not fit easily into the conformist society that is the experience of the majority of citizens, but then the societies depicted in the films may also be considered extreme and outside the experience of most. BESSON
  7. 7. Main characters and society II The worlds explored in these films (with the possible exception of "Big Blue") are dark and uncertain places where conventional views of what is right and wrong are challenged, and indeed where only the principal characters (in spite of appearances) show any real "integrity". It is in the conflict between these characters and the societies in which they live that we witness interesting and challenging observations on life, morality, and personal development. These worlds are extreme, as are the actions and reactions of the characters, but then that is the basis of drama, and extremity may lead to greater clarity. BESSON
  8. 8. Grey reality beneath the surface In each of the films it is worth noting that we are led below the surface of society. This is true quite literally and also metaphorically. In "Subway" we are taken into the underground system in Paris where Fred encounters a group of misfits who clearly have no desire to lead a conventional life, but whose "integrity" is beyond question. Like Fred, they are true to themselves and do what they feel they have to do to survive. They do not doubt or question themselves. They lead their lives as they see fit, even if this means breaking society‘s laws. While we do not approve of their actions or admire them, we may have some respect for their refusal to lie down and conform to society‘s expectations of them.
  9. 9. PLOT!! In no particular order, the following things transpire: 1) Fred hides from armed men apparently in the employ of Helena 's husband; 2) Fred eludes slow-witted and slow-footed policemen wearing those silly cylindrical French policemen hats; 3) Fred and Helena, who unlike the others has no trouble finding Fred, exhibit some sort of attraction to one another, we learn they have some sort of pre-existing relationship; 4) Oddball denizens of the subway system take Fred in, including an unethical flower vendor (Richard Bohringer), a bodybuilder (Christan Gomba), a roller-skating purse snatcher (Jean-Hughes Anglade), and several musicians (Jean Réno, et al.); 5) The musicians play terrible sounds that were evidently considered music in 1985. 80s Cinema
  10. 10. What makes even less sense is Subway 's commercial (at least in France) and critical success. The film is best described as a fanciful satire, as the labyrinthine subway system and its inhabitants no doubt represent the unfortunate by-products of our inequitable and often absurd social systems. Yet the precise ideas governing the film remain elusive. To be sure, as a tongue-in-cheek fantasy, the film is not meant to be taken seriously, but if Subway is supposed to be funny, then the jokes are as flat-footed as the policemen. And if it's not meant to be serious, why the ostentatiously affected ending? Budget FRF 17,000,000 (estimated) Opening Weekend $11,332 (USA) (10 November 1985) (1 Screen) Gross $57,875 (USA) (17 November 1985) $11,332 (USA) (10 November 1985) $390,659 (USA) $1,272,637 (Worldwide) $881,978 (West Germany) Weekend Gross $37,129 (USA) (17 November 1985) (5 Screens) $11,332 (USA) (10 November 1985) (1 Screen) Admissions 2,917,562 (France) ( 1985)
  11. 11. A flawed, though no less interesting experiment, in ultra-chic visual filmmaking I 18 Feb 2008 by Jonathan James Romley On release, a huge box-office hit in its native France - and as a result of the rising popularity of lead actors Lambert and Adjani, something of a cult film in the UK - Subway (1985) was seen as a companion to Beineix's earlier art-house classic, Diva (1981). Together, these 2 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 experimentation with elements of early 80's pop culture.
  12. 12. A flawed, though no less interesting experiment, in ultra-chic visual filmmaking II contd 2008 Jonathan James Romley This film 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 career progression - seems light years away from his 1st film, the wordless SF 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.
  13. 13. A flawed, though no less interesting experiment, in ultra-chic visual filmmaking III contd 2008 Jonathan James Romley 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 composed New Wave pop songs, some shocking fashion choices (though some of these came back in fashion) and that general unique, indescribable feeling that you often get from many French films from this era; in particular: Buffet Froid (‗81), One Deadly Summer (‗83), The Moon in the Gutter (‗83), First Name: Carmen (‗83), Betty Blue (‗86), Mauvais Sang (‗86), Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources (‗86) and Besson's own next picture, Le Grand Bleu (‗88).
  14. 14. A flawed, though no less interesting experiment, in ultra-chic visual filmmaking IV contd 2008 Jonathan James Romley Subway doesn't necessarily have much in common with the above 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.
  15. 15. A flawed, though no less interesting experiment, in ultra-chic visual filmmaking V contd 2008 Jonathan James Romley 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.
  16. 16. A flawed, though no less interesting experiment, in ultra-chic visual filmmaking VI contd 2008 Jonathan James Romley This kind of film 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 (‗91) or Leon (‗94), started out. JJ Romley said in 2008: ―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",
  17. 17. A flawed, though no less interesting experiment, in ultra-chic visual filmmaking VII contd 2008 Jonathan James Romley {he continued] ― .. 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.‖
  18. 18. A flawed, though no less interesting experiment, in ultra-chic visual filmmaking VIII contd 2008 Jonathan James Romley As a result, Subway might 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 series, Taxi). Subway clearly isn't a masterpiece. Like his 1st film, Le Dernier Combat, and 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, if not ever truly captivating. It is an interesting film and one that will no appeal to fans of some of the previous films, chiefly Diva.