Subway (Luc Besson / France, 1985):

Diva dans le Métro. The opening gag passes from Socrates to Sartre to Sinatra and there's the Postmodern rise for you, the hero won't start the car chase until he has the appropriate soundtrack. The camera zips across Parisian pavement and plunges down a tunnel, the gleaming subway platform underneath is the ideal stage for the Meet Cute: The blackmailing safecracker (Christopher Lambert) in tuxedo and shock of bleached hair, the trophy wife (Isabelle Adjani) in black gown and chandelier earrings. "A mere touch of passion. You're made for each other." Fluorescent matchsticks illuminate the sleek labyrinth, its dwellers include the pickpocket on roller skates (Jean-Hughes Anglade) plus weightlifters and kooks, the miscreant himself is an aspiring musician. Richard Bohringer with floral bouquets and philosophical pockets is a memento from Beineix, Michel Galabru's resemblance to Walter Matthau as the commissioner points up the salute to The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. So it goes with Luc Besson's pop fairytale, Jules Verne for New Wave dreamers, insuportable and blissful. A taste for movement and velocity—the characters live for wheels, rails, escalators, roller blades—and a yearning for naiveté in the midst of terminal coolness. Neon light like sunshine, welding sparks like fireworks, the funky soul behind the artifice, even the pipes in the boiler room hiss to the beat of the synth score. "Don't you ever go to the movies?" Comic-strip propulsion and melancholy evanescence, just a saxophone echoing through the corridors. Cinderella with a pistol ("it's her magic wand"), an upstairs-downstairs affair, "Batman et Robin" (cf. Franju's Nuits Rouges). Besson saves his art-house joke for the finale: Jean Reno with pith helmet and drumsticks before an audience expecting Brahms, then an À Bout de Souffle tickle with the protagonist fallen but still humming along to the beat. Cinematography by Carlo Varini. With Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jean-Claude Lecas, Arthur Simms, and Pierre-Ange Le Pogam.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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