Showing as part of a series of films featuring music by Goran Bregovic, Underground screens at the Cleveland Museum of Art's Lecture Hall tonight at 6. Here's our review of the film.
Underground (France/Yugoslavia/Germany/Hungary, 1995) A Grand Prize winner at Cannes, Emir Kusturica’s shaggy, surreal tragicomic lament takes 167 minutes to sum up 50 years of Balkans insanity and absurdity, with tones ranging from Rabelaisian vaudeville shtick to horror (the latter especially as the narrative leaps to the modern era of Bosnian genocide). The storyline follows the fates of two friends in the ersatz nation of Yugoslavia, crook Blacky and Communist Party hack Marko, both allied against the Nazis (“fascist motherfuckers!”) in the underground resistance movement, but who come to be romantic rivals for Natalija, an ambitious and fickle Belgrade actress. Marko hides a wounded Blacky (and a small army of partisans, a wedding band and a chimp) in a cellar near the close of WWII and finds it personally and politically expedient to dupe them all into thinking that the war is still going on for years afterwards (nitpickers noted a slight resemblance to the obscure Alec Guinness 1965 dark comedy Situation Hopeless But Not Serious). Meanwhile in the Tito-dominated 1950s and ’60s, the missing Blacky is proclaimed a peoples’ hero and honored Marxist martyr. True, a lot of Kusturica goes a long way, and the effect is sometimes deadening (and you get the sense the Animal Protective League wasn’t present on this set, nosiree). Still, this is one of the most important Eastern European films of the 1990s. *** (Charles Cassady Jr.)