Subway (Directors Suite) (1985)

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Released 17-Aug-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Four Directors Suite trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 98:15 (Case: 102)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:03) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luc Besson

Madman Entertainment
Starring Isabelle Adjani
Christopher Lambert
Richard Bohringer
Michel Galabru
Jean-Hugues Anglade
Jean Bouise
Jean-Pierre Bacri
Jean-Claude Lecas
Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
Jean Reno
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Eric Serra

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Luc Besson's first feature film, The Last Battle (Le Dernier Combat), introduced cinema fans to his blossoming talent. Besson's second feature film, Subway, more than confirmed it. This film is full of style, idiosyncratic characters and a setting as unique to itself as the setting was for The Last Battle (i.e. the film is set in the Paris Metro Subway). Subway stars Christopher Lambert (who won a CESAR award for his lead role in this film) and Isabelle Adjani, with Besson regulars Jean Reno, Jean-Hughes Anglade and Eric Serra playing quirky characters who live in the subway.

     The first thing you notice about Subway is the fact that it starts with a car chase. This car chase occurs after a safe robbery by Fred (Christopher Lambert) at a high society party, we know this because Fred and his pursuers are wearing tuxedos. Apparently Fred has stolen sensitive, private documents belonging to Helena (Isabelle Adjani) the wife of a gangster. Immediately, in the film's opening, we have a brave example of the use of ellipsis, the intentional use of omitting a part of a narrative. That this is done from the start is bold because the beginning of a film usually sets up the orientation so that the audience can connect with the main characters and their story. Here Besson seemingly goes for broke, you have no idea where you are and who is who in the first ten minutes of this film and, personally, that drew me in straight away. Afterward, we see Fred crash into the Paris metro and escape his pursuers, where he meets a bag-snatching roller-skater (Jean-Hughes Anglade), a bumbling duo of police officers named Inspector Batman (Jean-Pierre Bacri) and Robin (Jean-Claude Lecas) and others who hang out in the subway, full-time it seems, such as 'The Drummer' (Jean Reno), 'The Bassist' (composer Eric Serra) and 'The Singer' (Arthur Simms). The story, what little there is of it, follows Fred as the lead anti-hero protagonist as he schemes to blackmail Helena while simultaneously falling in love with her. The finale to the film sees Fred replace the classical concert at the metro with his band and an ending that references the finale of Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1960), where Jean-Paul Belmondo's character falls in front of his leading lady (Jean Seberg) in the same way that Fred does with Helena.

     Subway was a hit when released in 1985 and it has become a cult favourite since. Its setting in the Paris Metro shows its audience a world where memorable and strange characters hang out and get by. In this way the film reminded me of Martin Scorsese's film of the same year, After Hours, where we are presented with a picture of New York and the people who live in its suburbs between midnight and dawn. Like Subway, they're nothing like the ordinary folk who work nine-to-five and have an average existence; there's nothing typical about the people who meet in After Hours or in Subway.

     Long-time Besson film composer Eric Serra again provides a terrific soundtrack to support this film, influenced by the synthetic-pop movement of the mid-eighties.

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Transfer Quality


    This version of Subway cannot compare with the previous Region 4 release of the film by CEL which was plainly awful and was reviewed on this site here.

     The aspect ratio of Subway is 2:35:1, 16x9 enhanced. The average bitrate of the film is a very respectable, for DVD, 7.87 m/b per sec. There isn't a predominant colour scheme here, Besson and his cinematographer Carlo Varini make use of a wide spectrum of colours throughout the film. Film artefacts are minimal. There is a slight film grain in this transfer, some minor edge enhancement at times and evidence of low level noise, especially when the video transfer is rendering deep blacks.

     Subtitles are available in yellow or white.

     The RSDL change occurs at 56:03, during a scene transition.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    We do not get the American-dubbed English soundtrack here. This is a good thing as the original French track is full of humour which is lost when dubbed in English.

     The main soundtrack is a French Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps. Dialogue is clear and synchronised.

     Music by Eric Serra is influenced by the eighties era of the film, yet it's still great to listen to. You get solid bass and a surprisingly dynamic soundtrack for this Dolby Digital 2.0 audio transfer.

     Surround channel usage, despite using only the two front speakers, still uses effective stereo to support the action sequences in the film. The subwoofer is not utilised however.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer

     This trailer is 16x9 enhanced and was released in the early 1990s.

Directors Suite Trailers

     Four Directors Suite trailers are available for Luc Besson's Atlantis, Angel-A and Big Blue and Jane Campion's Sweetie.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Subway has been released in awful Region Free pan-and-scan versions by UAV in the United States and CEL in Australia. These should be avoided at all costs. A Region 1 US release by Columbia Tristar included a French and English Dub Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack, whereas the similar UK Region 2 release by the same company also included German, Russian, Italian and Spanish soundtracks. The French Region 2 Film Office release and the German Region 2 BMG release both included Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French, English and German. All these releases included trailers as extras or filmographies.

     Despite only including the original French soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0, the Australian Region 4 Madman Directors Suite label release does not pale into comparison to the aforementioned versions of Subway, as the soundtrack on this release is still dynamic.


    Subway surprised me with its youthful appeal. It is certainly unique and memorable with characters that are larger-than-life, which is fairly typical for a Luc Besson feature film.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Monday, October 25, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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