Underground ★★★½

1995 Cannes Film Festival (In Competition)

Kusturica’s film bursts onto the screen with a madcap energy that’s exhilarating but also unnerving, because few films besides 1941 and Pintilie’s Carnival Scenes have been able to sustain their relentless zaniness past the two-hour mark. Indeed, the returns of Underground begin to diminish after World War II ends and its moment-to-moment invention yields to a grand statement about the irony of fate. The underground home is a potent metaphor, but Kusturica doesn't advance it much over time, rehashing the central love triangle and conveying historical tumult largely through the bewilderment of simpletons. Though the film is never less than exuberant, Kusturica’s ambition extends beyond his forte: making a Marx Brothers movie in German-occupied Yugoslavia. The gleeful chaos of the first hour could not be more beautifully orchestrated: the freewheeling camera captures a wealth of absurdist detail without dwelling inordinately upon anything. It’s a dazzling accomplishment.