Subway (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1985)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
|Year Of Production||1985|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Luc Besson|
Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||French Linear PCM 48/24 2.0|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In Susan Hayward’s book Luc Besson, it is cited that the script for Subway (1985), a hyperkinetic exploration of the Paris metro and its underground community of wayward characters, was actually a young Luc Besson’s first completed screenplay; he wrote the script for Le dernier combat (1983), a post-apocalyptic, somewhat comic tale of men reverting to primitive and barbaric urges in the absence of women, after writing the script for Subway. However Besson opted for Le dernier combat to be his debut feature film, as the director envisioned Subway as “too big and heavy to handle for a first feature film” (p 32).
Nevertheless, only a few years after the production of Le dernier combat, Subway was made by a now critically revered Besson. He was brimming with confidence after he had received critical acclaim in France and abroad for the daring, relentless and darkly-comic Le dernier combat which won several film prizes, including a nomination for Besson as best debut-director at the 1984 César Awards. Certainly an impressive feat for the then 25 year old filmmaker, who knew Subway would become not only his calling card as an International filmmaker, but also a chance for him to let loose and make something without the constraints of a restricted budget. If Le dernier combat was the film which made the industry aware of Besson, Subway became the film which set Besson apart and defined his legacy, as Subway swiftly became a cult-classic particularly in English-speaking territories and alongside Jean-Jaques Bieneix’s Diva (1981) and Betty Blue (1986) have shaped modern French cinema. However on release Subway was widely criticised for the "meagre scenario and lack of characterisation. Described as a 'clip' (music video) over-extended to a feature length film" (Austin, Guy. Contemporary French Cinema. Manchester UP 1996. p 126).
I came to view Subway unsuspectingly as a kid, in the good old days of SBS when Des Mangan hosted Cult Movies and for me Subway initially seemed like a live-action cyber-punk influenced anime, but now I notice it’s also an intelligent film with a number of homages to Jean-Luc Godard’s classic À bout de soufflé, (1960) particularly as Christopher Lambert’s youthful and rebellious Fred is cut from the same cloth as the romantic, suave, criminal anti-hero Michel Poiccard (effortlessly embodied by a young Jean-Paul Belmondo in the 1960 film). Fred is a criminal the audience are introduced to in the midst of an impressive car chase. Dressed in a tuxedo, blond-haired Fred (Sting according to Hayward was Besson's first choice for the role) appears to have stolen something quite valuable. Fred has little concern for his safety, as his well-dressed pursuers try to run him off the road; he instead has his sights set only on a beloved cassette-tape, featuring a saxophone heavy instrumental pop tune - by Eric Serra no less (The UK TV version of Subway included Propaganda's "The Murder of Love" as the track Fred was searching for in the opening scene) (p 33). When Fred finally manages to play the cassette-tape, he claps his hands in child-like excitement and wears an infectious grin.
As the chase weaves it’s way into recognisable Parisian streets, Fred has little concern for the safety of others; he is reckless, impulsive and yet remains extremely likeable. Fred loses the disgruntled goons on foot and takes refuge in the nearby Paris Métro. What follows is a very loose narrative as Fred meets several memorable characters who make up an underground community of individuals who can live as they desire and do not have to obey the laws of the world above. Two major events occur in the Paris Métro; one is Fred meets Helena, portrayed by the exquisite Isabelle Adjani, (Besson had directed the title track music video for Adjani's album Pull-Marine - which was written and produced by Serge Gainsbourg - who Besson also directed Mon Légionnaire for) who he falls madly in love with and who also happens to be the trophy wife of the gangster. Helena is depicted as an unhappy woman, a sad princess, emotionally and physically imprisoned within her bourgeois existence.
Whilst cleverly evading the desperate police in the Paris Métro on numerous occasions, particularly Inspector Batman (Jean-Pierre Bacri) and Robin (Jean-Claude Lecas) and hiding from the ruthless gangsters, Fred unusually finds the time to also manage a pretty neat band within the Paris Métro, composed of the ‘outlaws’ who exist only within the underground, including ‘The Roller-Skater’ (Jean-Hugues Anglade), ‘The Drummer’ (Jean Reno), ‘The Bassist’ (Eric Serra) and ‘The Singer’ (Arthur Simms). Subway is an awfully fun film, it's visceral and very entertaining and Besson makes the underground setting appear wide and spacious as opposed to claustrophobic; there are excellent chase scenes in the Métro which demonstrates this. Subway is a film very much set in the 80s, and it wears its sub-culture influences as a badge of honour. Subway is a charming modern day fairytale with a Prince and Princess in Fred and Helena and their not so easy love affair, surrounded by a ‘band’ of unforgettable characters and evil goons who want to bring them down. It’s a defiant Besson trying his best to push the medium of cinema and make something fantastic, comic and visually arresting, an artistic sensibility he would revisit with the production of The Fifth Element (1997).
I have to admit I am quite happy with this 1080p transfer. I know some may describe it as soft or perhaps ridden with grain/noise but it is certainly much better than any DVD presentation I’ve seen.
The facts are it is MPEG-4 AVC encoded on a single-layer BD 25 disc, in its original 16x9 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
In regards to the single layer BD 25 disc; this is not an issue, as the transfer has no major compression artefacts.
Grain is evident on the transfer which I did not mind; there are very few film artefacts and black levels remain clear and solid however digital noise is apparent on occasion.
Contrast is strong and colour, which is quite important within the production and costume design of Subway, remains bold and vibrant, while skin textures remain natural.
It’s a nice transfer all-round, given the age of the film and thankfully without any dreaded DNR issues.
Optional English subtitles, which have an accurate translation of the dialogue of the film are included and appear in the lower part of the widescreen frame.
The only soundtrack available is a French LPCM 48 2-channel mono soundtrack and I’m happy to report that it is error-free with no issues regarding distortion of any sort; it’s actually quite a clean soundtrack.
Dialogue remains clear and crisp and if you have seen Subway you will know it’s Eric Serra’s infectious, memorable score at the front and centre of the soundtrack and here the music is nicely produced with nice bass response and depth. The soundtrack is epic - for example the opening scene score , the Congo Bass scene and spawned several 'songs' including Its Only Mystery featuring the late American Singer Arthur Simms which was released as a single in France and (spoiler waring) Guns and People.
|Surround Channel Use|
Madman well done! A truly wonderful animated menu which is subtle and completely in check with the tone of the film! Really impressive! The usual options are on offer; 12 scene selections, subtitle options and access to the lone extra feature a Theatrical Trailer.
The Theatrical Trailer is in standard definition.
The Madman release is identical to the UK Optimum Region B Locked Blu-ray.
In France this title was release by Paramount. It is also a BD 25, however it is Region-Free and features a French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack with optional English and French subtitle options. The transfer is described as almost identical to the Optimum release, which is identical to the local Madman release.
Subway is a great cult-classic, produced nicely on this Madman Blu-ray. It’s a fun, modern fantasy and features great performances from a youthful Christopher Lambert and always wonderful Isabelle Adjani and at its helm Luc Besson at his quirky, outlandish best.
|DVD||Panasonic DMP-BD35, using HDMI output|
|Display||Mitsubishi Electric HC6800 1080P Home Theatre Projector. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12|