Underground

  • 1995
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Comedy, Drama, Historical

Emir Kusturica's magnificent fresco rips through half a century of the tragic history of his homeland -- the former Yugoslavia -- with all the solemnity of an amusement park ride. It won the director the 1995 Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or, but also landed him in a heap of trouble with critics who construed this essentially nonpartisan film as pro-Serbian...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Emir Kusturica's magnificent fresco rips through half a century of the tragic history of his homeland -- the former Yugoslavia -- with all the solemnity of an amusement park ride. It won the director the 1995 Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or, but also

landed him in a heap of trouble with critics who construed this essentially nonpartisan film as pro-Serbian propaganda. As the Germans begin their 1941 siege of Belgrade, entrepreneurial friends Marko (Miki Manojlovic) and Blacky (Lazar Ristovski) manufacture arms for sale on the black market.

Their self-serving impulses are mistaken for patriotism, and the pair become heroes of the Communist Party freedom fighters. After Blacky is arrested and tortured by the Nazis -- for kidnapping the actress (Mirjana Jokovic) he loves during a performance -- Marko stages a bold rescue. He then hides

Blacky in a cellar with the other arms makers, and there they stay for the next 15 years, believing Marko's assurances that the war rages on. Blacky emerges deluded and out of touch in 1961, stepping from one daydream into another -- Tito's Yugoslavia -- before slipping into a nightmare 30 years

later when, during the present Balkan crisis, he becomes the leader of a commando unit. Like '70s-era Lina Wertmuller, whose SEVEN BEAUTIES treated history and national character with similar reckless abandon, Kusturica delivers some discomforting suggestions -- not the least of which is that

history and national identity are lies, and you are as culpable as you are gullible -- at a rollicking, almost slapstick pace. But even as Kusturica's "wasn't that a time!" treatment of the past leaves him open to doubts about his own convictions, the film comes with a built-in retort: No

character is guiltier of myth-making and the perpetuation of falsehoods than the filmmaker who's commissioned to tell the "true story" of Blacky and Marko's heroism. The past may all be just a pack of lies, the film suggests, but after everything's gone to pieces, it's hard not to feel nostalgic

for something.

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  • Released: 1995
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Emir Kusturica's magnificent fresco rips through half a century of the tragic history of his homeland -- the former Yugoslavia -- with all the solemnity of an amusement park ride. It won the director the 1995 Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or, but also la… (more)

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