I knew Christopher Lambert what with his prancing and dancing about in his loincloth! He called the jungle his home and was the self appointed Lord of the Apes, Tarzan (1984). However it wasn’t until his immortal swordsman with that dodgy Scottish accent arrived with the classic action romp, Highlander (1985) that I really clocked his name. So sat there on the shelve in the local video store was the intriguing Subway (1985). With a smartly dressed Christopher Lambert with a shock of white hair and what could only be described as a lightsaber in his hands. Off I went to the counter………..
First things first.
This post is the fifth edition to our four way delve into our collective video renting days. A quarterly meet up mini blogathon. We are the Video Store Action Heroes. A hive bank of memories and you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s no tight Lycra in sight! This time we are tackling the subject matter of travel! With it having to revolve around air, sea or rail.
Todd over at Cinema Monolith went for dangers of being on the wrong side of the tracks with Disaster On The Coastliner (1979). Greg at Destroy All Fanboys also hit the waves with perils on The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and finally Mike at Mike’s Take On The Movies flew through the skies in Firefox (1982) with that our man Clint at the helm. And as you’re here you know that the title I went for was rail with Luc Besson’s Subway (1985). You can catch up on past reviews here at Video Store Action Heroes.
Sat in the wooden confession booth with my head hung in shame. I thought back to those tentative teenage years. My hair was fluffier back then. Haha I even had a spring in my step, the back didn’t ache, oh man I even had a flat stomach. There’s a tap on the inner window. “Look my child can you please get to the point” says the priest. “Sorry father“.
Well I’d got back from the video store ready to be entertained when the realisation hit me. The blooming film was in fact French! And it was subtitled. I was devastated. Now don’t get me wrong, later in life I’d go out of my way to watch a subtitled film. However for this young wide-eyed wolf sitting in his bedroom, his excitement for this film was slightly deflated. Still I watched it but shamefully I didn’t bother reading anything, just watched the film. You know what? I didn’t have a clue what was going on……..
So it was with much joy that I re-watched it for this here post. And do you know what? I still really didn’t know what was going on. Hehe. And that is one of the things I liked so much about it. It is a wonderful quirky film, with a surreal feel. It’s arty and stylish, confusing and superbly original. I really enjoyed being stuck down the maze like Paris metro station. With offbeat, eccentric characters passing through the terminal gates of the train station at every turn. There’s something interesting and exciting constantly coming at you as you try to figure what on Earth is going on?
To be is to do (Socrate) To do is to be (Sartre) Do be do be do (Sinatra)
So what offbeat and eccentric characters are you talking about Mikey?
The metro station is a labyrinth of tunnels, subway train lines and terminals branching out like tree roots through the underground of Paris. A place where whole communities of homeless, lost souls and people just happy to set up home away from the mayhem of the above world. Pickpockets, chancers, buskers and flower sellers.
You got Connor MacLeod I mean Christopher Lambert looking more like a modern day Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He’s known just as Fred. He’s guilty of something. He has handcuffs on. However there’s an air of innocence to him. He’s confident yet vulnerable. He’s been chased down into the subway system. He’s a hunted man. Hunted by many. The police, the transport cops, gangsters and even a pretty young lady.
Now any good French film has to have the trademark sexy lady and the object of desire for our Fred, the protagonist. That role goes to the beautiful sultry Isabelle Adjani. You’ll probably know her as The Player from Walter Hill’s getaway film The Driver (1978). Here she plays Helena. She so happens to be the trophy wife of a gangster. Fred’s stolen something and she’s tasked to retrieve it. No doubt some steamy moody flirting will take place?
There’s Leon The Professional aka Jean Reno known as The Drummer of obvious reasons. A quiet man with round glasses who has the constant need to drum. He’s forever on the lookout to form the perfect jazz funk band.
Then there’s The Roller. Played by Jean-Hugues Anglade aka Zorg from Betty Blue (1986). Another quiet character with a watchful eye. Whizzing around on his roller skates waiting for the perfect situation to arise. A chance moment. With a grab and a snatch and a quick getaway he disappears away at speed on his wheels.
Another addition to the underground metro group of wandering nomads is Richard Bohringer known as The florist. An older wiser man with a taste for the bottle. He uses his skills to maneuver the subterranean city with his mobile flower stall. Keeping one step ahead of the transport police. The florist knows all the tricks.
The authority of the metro station is Commissioner Gesberg (Michel Galabru). Desperate to bring law and order to the wild west of his underground world. He’s gruff and bossy. With two Inspectors under his command. Two officers comically called Batman and Robin running around doing his bidding.
There’s a certain sadness, an almost lost look to all the characters. We glance fleetingly into each of their lives. Making our way down escalators, jumping on and off subway trains and traveling down deep into the network of tunnels. Luc Besson had created a unique and quirky film with the beginnings of his usual trademark stamp starting to show. His films always have a feel of being slightly in the future. A sense of a dystopian future.
It’s best to sit back and just run with whats happening. It’s like a fairy tale. Subway is an extremely joyful way to spent your time. And to prove that, just wait for the beautiful moment when Arthur Simms turns up and joins the band. With a nervous demeanor he starts to sing. Out of blue his voice breaks through in English and he lets out It’s Only Mystery. A truly wonderful scene.
Be sure to check the other Video Store Action Heroes posts. Hope you enjoyed my rambling that lets be honest don’t make that much sense at all but hey go check the film, I’m sure it will all fit into place. You can stream Subway here on Youtube at time of writing.
So to finish it up, please sing us outta of here Mr Arthur Simms. Thanks for reading. All the best and happy vibes.. Mikey