Sunday, May 15, 2011

Subway Swap!

If there’s one day I don’t look forward to every month, it’s paying an ungodly $104 for my monthly Metrocard. Thankfully, one day I DO look forward to is trading movie recommendations with T.L. Bugg over at The Lightning Bug’s Lair and gloriously enough, May counteracts my MTA gripes with a suitably themed subway swap!
Over at The Lair, expect to find what I except to be the Zach’s glowing review of one of my recent favorites, 2009’s Canadian underground evil cult horror, End of the Line. For my part, Zach sent me the conveniently Watch Instantly 1985 French hit, Luc Besson’s Subway.
Quick Plot: Um...let me try:
Christopher Lambert is Fred, a tuxedoed drifter of sorts who has stolen some super secret documents from a gangster’s bedazzled wife Helena (the gorgeous Isabelle Adjani) and is now hiding out underground where he meets a bevy of oddballs that includes a rollerskating purse snatcher, greasy flower man, talented body builder named Big Billy and a medium-length haired Jean Reno.

Now you might be thinking to yourself, ‘that’s not so hard a summary.’ In many ways, Subway is a simple film about a boy who loves a girl and the wacky world in which he tries to woo her. 

Except it’s not at all, because you don’t really know anything about Helena and Fred’s relationship until an hour into the film. Prior to that, you’re left wondering how they actually know each other, what mysterious documents he know holds as blackmail (if memory serves, I don’t think we ever actually find out) and just how giant this underground community of non-CHUD metro dwellers can possibly be. Mixed in is a sarcastic police investigator who much like Reno’s tragic turn in 1998’s Godzilla, just can’t get a good cup of coffee.
Subway is, based on extensive Wikipedia browsing, part of the European ‘80s Cinema du look movement. No, this has nothing to do with Lars Von Trier’s Dogme 95 let’s-hurt-you,-you-softie-moviegoers pledge. Cinema du look seems to pretty much be a plan to blast style as high above substance as possible, focusing on slick visuals and pop culture as related by a bunch of alienated young people that have no sense of depth or politics. I think.

Depending on your cinematic taste, you might be thinking such a film style is either as brilliant a combo as peanut butter and banana or as loathsome as putting butter on your pancakes (I don’t understand why anyone would do this). I suppose I appreciate both--even if I still will throw my hot coffee at any waitress who brings me a butter soaked dish of pancakes. On one hand, why shouldn’t a talented filmmaker give in to the joys of camerawork and present his/her audience with something that takes advantage of visual possibilities and is, I assume, easily pleasing to a modern film-going public? On the other hand, allow me to introduce my old often introduced friend Paul Verhoeven, a director who can magically produce films far more fun AND logical than Subway but that still contain a surprisingly dense, always reverent amount of smart satire.
See, I guess what I might be saying is that Subway is fun and fresh film. But I think it would have been far better were it directed by Paul Verhoeven.

I liked Subway. I did. It was fun in a where-the-brie-is-this-going kind of way. But also a tad empty, one content with presenting types rather than characters and stuff rather than story. For 90 minutes, that’s more than fine. It’s just not fantastic.
High Points
About 3/4 into the film, Subway almost pauses for an absolutely odd and beautiful little singalong. Yes it stops what is mostly a bouncy and light action film, but it’s rather wonderful
Isabelle Adjani is a superb actress, but let’s all admit that in her first scene, it’s really the 9 lb. earrings that do the heavy emoting. Because I doubt they got any work after this film, a moment of salute:
Low Points
If Wikipedia is to be believed (and they always are, right?), the only readily available version of Subway features a dreadfully dubbed audio track wherein for whatever reason, Christopher Lambert provides his own Frenchish vocals and everybody else sounds like Peter Falk
Lessons Learned
High mohawks can lead to high levels of sassiness

Nothing says ‘impromptu subway concert’ quite so well as boy scout uniforms
If planning on speeding through Paris in a car chase to escape murderous/carsick goons, always be sure to pack the right high energy mixed tape

I definitely recommend Subway, as it’s unique, enjoyable, and a piece of cinema footnotes in recent theory history. As a Netflix stream, it’s a more than ideal way to pass some time with surprise. No, I didn’t want to marry it and have its chic mohawked children, but it’s an easy rental for a light-hearted and bizarre time.

For some darker days underground, head on over to The Lightning Bug’s Lair for Zach’s take on End of the Line.


  1. Emily, I'm really glad you liked Subway. It sounds like we liked our movies pretty eqaualy this month. Subway is a strange good time, but Lu and Chris really come through to make it strange, but enjoyable.

  2. Subway's been sitting in my instant queue for a while now, so I'm happy to actually read something about it, specifically something that is mostly positive.

    I enjoy most of what Besson has done, with The Professional being his high watermark and one of my favorites. It's certainly his name that draws my attention to the film, however, Verhoeven certainly has a little more credence with me as he does with you.

  3. Definitely something different Bugg. Yay for a successful swap!

    Matt: I think you'd dig Subway. It has enough sweetness to properly balance the wacky. And amen bruthah on the Besson/Verhoeven battle. I'm sure they don't really battle or anything, but I do think their catalog almost demands a pair-up and while Besson has made some great stuff, Verhoeven is just my ultimate fave.

  4. I love Besson! I should watch this. Like Matt, it has been on my queue forever!
    And you're supposed to put butter on pancakes. You've clearly been doing it wrong.

  5. Nazis were also supposed to kill innocent people, but nobody said they were right!

    I just DO NOT UNDERSTAND butter on pancakes. It makes something sweet suddenly weirdly salty and hence, MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER!