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SUBWAY RIDERS
Directed by Amos Poe, Director of Photography Hannah Heer
Producer Hannah Heer

USA/A 1979/81, 120 minutes, 16mm, Color

Cast: Susan Tyrrell, Robbie Coltrane, John Lurie, Amos Poe, Cookie Mueller, Charlene Kaleina, and Bill Rice

 

Reviews | Credits

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"Outstanding Film Of the Year!" -British Film Institute

"SUBWAY RIDERS is a chilling melodrama of angst, alienation and obsession. Poe and his Director of Photography (and producer) Johanna Heer use color (lurid reds and neon blues) symbolically and odd camera angles subtly underscore the premise that the characters are not simply bizarros alienated from society, but rather that anomie is the definitive characteristic of the modern world itself. SUBWAY RIDERS' music does not merely accompany the film, but occupies its own aural space and so adds its own distinct perspective to this highly stylized, richly textured portrait of a world of random murders." -Jeff McLaughlin, The Boston Globe

"Johanna Heer's cinematography superbly conveys the ominous nocturnal atmosphere of streets and subways. Buildings, drip threatening shadows, echoes rattle down deserted subway platforms, even brownstone steps exude malevolence in the murky light. Inside, the temperature oscillates between the stifling red heat of Penelope's room and the eerie blue chill on Zindo's face as he practices beneath a neon Miller Beer sign. Camera play such as a close-up of a mayonnaise jar in an empty refrigerator or odd excursions into inconsequential space next to a character, contributes to the surreal mood." -Kathleen Hulser, The Film Journal

"Poe's melding of traditional film noir elements with a frenetic new wave sensibility electrifies the audience with the intensity of a third rail. Needless to say, the cinematography, by Johanna Heer, is stunning. The gritty cityscapes pictured in SUBWAY RIDERS are far more honest and provocative in their presentation than the schmaltz of more pretentious productions like MANHATTAN, to name just one..."
-Mike Ferris, The Harvard Independent

"The most direct attempt to switch off mainstream expectations I have seen in U.S. alternative cinema occurs in SUBWAY RIDERS, made by Amos Poe and Johanna Heer in 1981. The opening sequence shows Poe rejecting an offer to sell his script to Hollywood. The story then gets ultra-low-budget in look and sound, but also introduces a color-coded stylization, in which each main character's mood is shown by tinting the image. This stylization is pushed further by double casting the main character, a schizophrenic saxophone player who regularly tries to murder whoever hears him play. Poe and Heer made a film fully within German Expressionist terms and at the same time one that has the feeling of documentary realism. That Poe deliberately disconnected viewer expectations for a normal movie is part of the reason SUBWAY RIDERS became a cult classic, especially in Europe.
-- "Technology and film practice: Hollywood and low-budget alternatives" by Charles Eidsvik, from Jump Cut, no. 36, May 1991, pp. 36-42, 73
Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1991, 2006

"Einen psychopathischen Saxophonspieler treibt es immer wieder in die Parks und Straßen des nächtlichen New York, wo er spielt und anschlieflend seine zwei, drei Zufallshörer erschießt. Dieses Handlungsgerippe wiederzugeben heißt kaum etwas über den Film von Amos Poe zu sagen. Der Film lebt von der bizarren Atmosphäre dieser wohl monströsesten Stadt der Welt, gesehen mit dem Temperament eines New-Wave-Regisseurs und den Augen einer erstaunlichen Kamerafrau, Johanna Heer. Eine psychologisierende Farbdramaturgie akzentuiert das kaputte nachtschattige Personal. So agiert der Saxophonspieler in Blautönen, die über ihm wohnende Prostituierte erscheint in saftigem Rot. Weitere Figuren: ein verbissen den Mörder jagender fetter Polizist, seine schöne heroinsüchtige Frau, eine weitere Frau mit Kind. Teils taumeln sie, teils bewegen sie sich sinnlos zielstrebig durch das Melodram, das die Verlorenheit, Einsamkeit und Besessenheit seiner "Helden" weniger beklagt, eher damit kokettiert und das sich fasziniert genüßlich den morbiden Reizen New Yorks hingibt.
Nach zahlreichen in New York spielenden Gangsterfilmen, Musicals, Komödien, sozialkritischen Filmen, nach Scorsese und Woody Allen: wieder ein anderes New York." -Wolfgang Stieler, DER TAGESSPIEGEL, Berlin

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Film Festivals (selected)

Berlinale - Berlin International Film Festival (Forum), Germany
International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), Netherlands
Los Angeles, California, United States
Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), Scotland
London Film Festival, England
Festival Deauville, France
Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, Montreal, Canada
Dublin International Film Festival, Ireland
Filmfest Hamburg, Germany
Figueira da Foz International Film Festival, Portugal
Torino Film Festival, Italy
Viennale - International Film Festival, Austria

   
 

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