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Paris Metro where he finds an entire community of outlandish punks living underground. He then becomes involved with the bored housewife of the businessman he ripped off, leading a double life while staying one step ahead of the police.
For more about Subway and the Subway Blu-ray release, see Subway Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 19, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Isabelle Adjani, Christopher Lambert, Richard Bohringer, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Jean Reno, Michel Galabru
» See full cast & crew
Subway Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 19, 2009
A quintessential 80s film, Luc Besson's "Subway" (1985) is released on Blu-ray in the United Kingdom by local distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. The only extra feature on this disc is the film's original theatrical trailer. With optional English subtitles. Region-B "locked".
It 2004, Hungarian director Nimród Antal dazzled the audiences at the Cannes Film Festival with his Kontroll, a dark and very atmospheric film about a group of subway "kontrollers" shot entirely in Budapest's subway system. The film went on to win the coveted Award of the Youth.
Twenty four years earlier, Luc Besson's Subway, a film about a handsome thief who wanders the Paris Metro, had a similar effect on those who saw it. Wild yet incontestably stylish, Subway became one of the quintessential 80s films. To this very day, many rightfully regard it as director Besson's best work.
Here's its plot: Fred (Christopher Lambert, Highlander), a handsome thief who lives in the Paris Metro, has stolen some important documents from Helena (Isabelle Adjani, Camille Claudel), a beautiful young woman married to a rich but exceptionally obnoxious businessman (Constantin Alexandrov, Gorillas in the Mist: The Adventure of Dian Fossey). Fred tells Helena to meet him in the Metro where he would give her back the documents in exchange for money. When she arrives at the meeting spot, he runs away because another one of his victims - accompanied by his goons - shows up.
While hiding in the Metro, Fred befriends a number of strange characters – the Roller Skater (Jean-Hugues Anglade, 37°2 le matin), a thief specializing in purse-snatching, the Florist (Richard Bohringer, C'est beau une ville la nuit), a man with a drinking problem, the Drummer (Jean Reno), a passionate musician trying to put together a rock band, and Big Bill (Christian Gomba), a giant bodybuilder. Fred also meets "Batman" (Jean-Pierre Bacri, Comme une image) and "Robin" (Jean-Claude Lecas, Franck Spadone), two crazy cops on a mission to nab the Roller Skater.
What director Besson attempted to capture in his film some twenty four years ago were moods, vibes, and the atmosphere of a place with a unique identity. Unsurprisingly, though certainly entertaining, the story of Subway, as well as most of its characters, seems inconsequential. As a result, the film is likely to entice just as many viewers as it is likely to frustrate.
From start to finish, Subway resembles a giant ambient painting. There is a sense of chaos in it that is exasperating and at the same time impossible not to admire. Furthermore, different parts of Subway pulsate with a rhythm of their own, making it impossible to categorize it as a romantic story, drama, or an action film.
The dialog is also unique – it is not as absorbing as that heard in the films of the Nouvelle Vague directors, but it certainly has a flavor of its own, complimenting not detracting from the intoxicating visuals. Some of it does not immediately make sense, but multiple viewings of Subway should make it clear that it is indeed very carefully scripted.
The same could be said about the relationship between Fred and Helena. It gradually finds its rhythm and focus, but the process could frustrate those accustomed to the type of transparency Hollywood films tend to favor. Needless to say, this is one of the key reasons why Subway still fascinates.
Subway has a terrific music score, courtesy of Eric Serra (who actually plays the Bassist of the Metro band), which is as well remembered as is the actual film. In 1986, the film won a Cesar award for Best Sound (Meilleur son).
Subway Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Luc Besson's Subway arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
I would like to say this upfront - the transfer for Subway has a fair share of problems, but I much rather have older catalog titles (that are unlikely to get proper restorations from the studios) look like it - raw and unfiltered - than have a technician DNR-ing them to death to give them a new, "sharper" and less "grainy", look. So, Optimum Home Entertainment, if you cannot afford to invest into fresh new transfers for some of these older foreign films, release them on Blu-ray without trying to degrain them.
It is very easy to tell that the Blu-ray transfer for Subway was struck from a dated source. Contrast ranges from good to very good to, occasionally, average. Clarity and detail could be very impressive at times (the opening 15-20 minutes) and then be somewhat disappointing (the first band rehearsal). The good news, however, is that the film grain is mostly kept intact. Digital noise is occasionally mixed with it, but I still quite like the raw look of this transfer. Generally speaking, the color-scheme is pleasing – reds, blues, greens, blacks and whites look fresh. There are a few unfortunate color pulsations that I noticed, however, which I believe have been inherited from the dated source. Finally, there are a few tiny flecks that I noticed popping up here and there, but heavy debris, dirt, or scratches are nowhere to be seen. To sum it all up, this is an acceptable Blu-ray release of a favorite film of mine, which, at the moment, I do not have a problem recommending to you. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" disc. Therefore, unless you have a native Region-B or Region-Free player, you won't be able to access is content).
Subway Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 2.0. For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they split the image frame and the black bar below it.
There are no serious issues to report with the French LPCM 2.0 track. The dialog is crisp and very easy to follow while Eric Serra's music score sounds surprisingly fresh. Furthermore, there are absolutely no pops, cracks, or hissings that I detected. To sum it all up, the LPCM 2.0 track offers substantially more depth and color than the French Dolby Digital 2.0 track found on the R1 SDVD release does. This is a real upgrade!
Subway Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Most unfortunately, the only supplemental feature on this Blu-ray disc is the original theatrical trailer for the film (in PAL, and therefore not playable on most North American TV sets).
Subway Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Despite the minor flaws the transfer for Subway reveals, I believe that many of you will find it very easy to tolerate. I know I do - the R1 SDVD release of this film is absolutely horrendous. Furthermore, I do not expect to see Subway released on Blu-ray in North America any time soon, hence the reason why I feel very comfortable recommending this disc to you. RECOMMENDED.
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