Subway Stories

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Subway Stories
Subway Stories .jpg
Produced by Richard Guay
Valerie Thomas
Music by Mecca Bodega
Distributed by Home Box Office
Release date
  • August 17, 1997 (1997-08-17)
Running time
80 min
Country United States
Language English

Subway Stories: Tales from the Underground is a film made in 1997 and produced by Home Box Office for television. It began as a contest among New Yorkers who submitted stories about their experiences within the New York City Subway. HBO picked ten of the stories and cast mostly well-known or accomplished actors (such as Denis Leary, Bonnie Hunt, Rosie Perez and Bill Irwin), and ten well-respected directors (such as Jonathan Demme, Ted Demme, Abel Ferrara, Craig McKay, Julie Dash, and Bob Balaban).


Subway Stories, structured similarly to films such as Paris, Je t'aime and New York, I Love You, is divided according to director into short films, each with their own title, but strung almost seamlessly together.[1]

  • "Subway Car From Hell"
    • Directed by Jonathan Demme, written by Adam Brooks
      • Acting as bookend narratives which open and close the film, and starring Bill Irwin, this short film follows the attempts of a didgeridoo player to grab a bite to eat and navigate the subway system during a particularly crowded time of the day. Interactions with other people are framed through the actors talking directly into the camera. The second, end clip finds him adjacent to the 42nd Street Shuttle; ironically marking the film's end at the juncture of dozens of trains and subways.[1]
  • "The Red Shoes"
    • Directed by Craig McKay, written by John Guare
      • Starring Christine Lahti, Denis Leary, Kevin Corrigan, and N'Bushe Wright, this segment portrays an altercation between an angry homeless man in a wheelchair and the business woman who he manages to enrage by repeatedly running over her feet with his chair. As another woman becomes involved, things take an unexpected turn into moral quandary, and it becomes clear that the subway-car-bound court of public opinion can as easily convict as free you.[1]
  • "The 5:24"
    • Directed by Bob Balaban, written by Lynn Grossman
      • Starring Steve Zahn and Jerry Stiller, this short follows the conversations between a wary young financial analyst and a seemingly brilliant, wise, older, and allegedly retired analyst who claims working in an office, though lucrative, would take the fun out his predictive abilities. When the older man proposes an investment that appears too good to be true, will the young analyst set aside his fears and gamble his savings on the older man's lucrative proposal?[1]
  • "Fern's Heart of Darkness"
    • Directed by Patricia Benoit, written by Angela Todd, and based on a story by Kathryn Drury
      • Starring Bonnie Hunt as the titular Fern, and with a non-speaking appearance by Mekhi Phifer, this short follows the conservatively dressed Fern, a visitor to the city who is attempting to take the subway, rather than a cab, to a friend's home. Falling victim not to crime, but to her own fears and assumptions about big city people, whether or not they appear different from herself, Fern refuses to ask for or accept help from anyone, and finds herself lost and locked underground overnight.[1]
  • "The Listeners"
    • Directed by Seth Rosenfeld, written by Ken Kelsch
      • Starring Michael Rapaport and Lili Taylor, this short examines the age-old problem of communication in relationships when Belinda accuses her boyfriend of not listening to her. Her angry shift of location to another car, and brief conversation about politics with a suited older man, who seems at first to just be friendly, reveals that in the city, listening, hearing, and understanding are far more complicated, communal activities than one might have thought.[1]
  • "Underground"
    • Directed by Lucas Platt, written by Albert Innaurato
      • Starring Mercedes Ruehl as a sensual older woman with unusual appetites, this short asks and answers the question: what does a young man (Zachary Taylor) dumped by his girlfriend and beat up by her ex-boyfriend (Peter Sarsgaard) and his friends need to soothe his bruised face and ego?[1]
  • "Honey-Getter"
    • Directed by Alison Maclean, written by Danny Hoch
      • Nicole Ari Parker and Sarita Choudhury star in this short as Sharon and Humera, attractive law students heading home after a late night out. Tired and boarding the train alone, although it is far from empty, Humera is groped by two immature, offensive young men (Ajay Naidu and Danny Hoch). However, the end of this short reminds you that, in a city like New York, appearing to be an easy target does not make one an easy target, and you would be well advised to avoid bothering or abusing anyone.[1]
  • "Sax Cantor Riff"
    • Written and directed by Julie Dash
      • Starring Taral Hicks, and with a brief appearance by Sam Rockwell, this short celebrates the unexpected musical gifts which the subway can give. In overlapping duets between a saxophone player (Kenny Garrett), accompanying first a gospel singer, and then a Jewish singer, one finds the subway to be an underground Carnegie Hall - whether the music is born of the grief wrought by experiencing the death of a parent in public, or produced by the heart-rending lament of a Hasidic man's (Dan Rous) unexpected emotional outpouring.[1]
  • "Love on the A Train"
    • Directed by Abel Ferrara, written by Marla Hanson
      • Starring Rosie Perez and Gretchen Mol, this humorous short follows a newly married man (Michael McGlone) who develops an utterly silent, distracting, sensual relationship with an attractive woman (Perez) on the subway. Although they never speak, they spend their morning commute lightly rubbing against each other, while appearing to only lean against a pole.[1]
  • "Manhattan Miracle"
    • Directed by Ted Demme, written by Joe Viola
      • Gregory Hines, world-renowned dancer, stars here as a compelling and expressive observer who cannot ignore a woman in trouble on the other platform. With a soundtrack of Vivaldi's Concerto for Cello in D Minor providing atmosphere, he watches with growing concern and fear as a distressed pregnant woman (Anne Heche) across from him decides whether to commit suicide by jumping onto the tracks. His act of skipping a train to try to gain the woman's attention and keep her from jumping, reveals in part why this short is a worthy capstone to this finely rendered collection.[1]

Critical reaction[edit]

Subway Stories continues to be acclaimed by prominent critics and viewers alike. states it as "honest, humorous and even moving at times."

Commercial releases[edit]

Despite such acclaim for the film, HBO initially only released it on VHS in the United States, although it was later released on Region 4 DVD (Australasia, and Central and South America). HBO released the film on Region 1 DVD (North America) on October 16, 2007.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Marking Time In Movie Land. "Subway Stories". Retrieved 2011-01-04. 

External links[edit]