Underground | Chicago Reader


167 minutes 1995

Though slightly trimmed by director-writer Emir Kusturica for American consumption, this riotous satirical and farcical allegory about the former Yugoslavia from World War II to the postcommunist 1990s is still marvelously excessive. The outrageous plot involves a couple of anti-Nazi arms dealers and gold traffickers who gain a reputation as communist heroes. One of them (Miki Manojlović) installs a group of refugees in his grandfather's cellar, and on the pretext that the war is still raging upstairs he gets them to manufacture arms and other black-market items until the 60s, meanwhile seducing the actress (Mirjana Joković) that his best friend (Lazar Ristovski) hoped to marry. Loosely based on a play by cowriter Dušan Kovačević, this sarcastic, carnivalesque epic (1995) won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and has been at the center of a furious controversy ever since for what's been called its pro-Serbian stance. (Kusturica himself is a Bosnian Muslim.) However one chooses to take its jaundiced view of history, it's probably the best film to date by the talented Kusturica (Time of the Gypsies, Arizona Dream), a triumph of mise-en-scene mated to a comic vision that keeps topping its own hyperbole. In German and Serbo-Croatian with subtitles.



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