Underground (1995)

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Released 1-Jun-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Theatrical Trailer-Underground
Teaser Trailer-Umbrella Trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 163:03
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Emir Kusturica
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Miki Manojlovic
Lazar Ristovski
Mirjana Jokovic
Slavko Stimac
Ernst Stötzner
Srdjan Todorovic
Mirjana Karanovic
Milena Pavlovic
Danilo 'Bata' Stojkovic
Bora Todorovic
Davor Dujmovic
Dr. Nele Karajlic
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Goran Bregovic


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown Serbo-Croatian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    "Once upon a time, there was a country..."

    It's a fair assumption that most people would never have heard the name, Emir Kusturica - at least, not in this country. But the fact is, this Serbian director is one of only four filmmakers who have won the converted Palme d'Or at Cannes twice. While plenty of his films have achieved prominence at many of the world's most premier film festivals, it is the success at Cannes that really holds distinction. The first of Kusturica's films to win the prestigious award was his outstanding 1985 film, When Father Was Away on Business (Otac na sluzbenom putu). The success was then repeated ten years later when the surreal epic, Underground, took out the top prize.

    Underground opens with the bombing of Belgrade in 1941 and the subsequent invasion of Yugoslavia by the Nazis. Blacky (Lazar Ristovski) and Marko (Miki Manojlovic) are two good friends who profit quite nicely from the chaos of war. They are small-time crooks with stars in their eyes and the escalation of war only furthers the need for a black-market.

    As German bombs rain down around Blacky's house, his pregnant wife complains about the amount of time he spends at the theatre. She rightly suspects that Blacky has a mistress - a sexy young actress by the name of Natalija (Mirjana Jokovic). Blacky soon becomes aware that he has some competition for Natalija's affection. A Nazi officer named, Franz (Ernst Stötzner) wins her heart and soon steals her away. But, Blacky is unaware that his friend, Marko also has an eye for her.

    When Blacky is captured and tortured by the Nazis, it is left to Marko to rescue him. Marko takes him, battered and bruised to a large underground cellar, where many others have also gathered to escape the invaders. Blacky is united with his young son, who was born in the cellar while he was in Nazi detention. With Blacky now safe underground, Marko is free to run the operation above ground and in particular, he's free to pursue Natalija.

    Years go by and the war ends, but Marko keeps the illusion alive. Underground in the cellar, life goes on with people completely unaware that the hostilities with the Germans have long ended. They are told that the Nazis still occupy the country and they must play a vital role in the anti-fascist resistance. Ready and keen to assist their nation, the underground movement begins to manufacture weapons for this non-existent resistance. They even build their own tank, ready for their call to arms - a calling that will never come.

    Years later, General Tito rules the country and Marko has a place of prominence in his government. Above ground, Marko and Natalija are happily married and live a high life that befits their new status. But Marko hasn't totally forsaken his friend. In an effort to ease the burden of his guilt, Marko falsely proclaims Blacky to be a great war hero and he uses his political position to educate the people as such. Soon, the population embrace the legend and monuments of "the late", Petar "Blacky" Popara are unveiled around the city.

    Meanwhile, still underground and totally unaware of his national hero status, Blacky is in great spirits. There is an aura of high excitement in the cellar, because Blacky's now adult son, Jovan (Srdjan Todorovic) is about to get married. As Marko and Natalija sit at the wedding table amongst the joyous celebrations, the weight of the deception becomes overwhelming and Marko is aware that the illusion is close to an end.

    The strong desire for father and son to take up arms and fight with the resistance movement becomes irresistible. Soon after the wedding and under the cover of darkness, Blacky and Jovan emerge to face the enemy. They surface to the outside world and find themselves on the set of a film in production - a film about a certain national hero.

    Underground is a difficult film to categorise. My synopsis briefly outlines the first half of the film, but I have deliberately missed out characters and events to keep your enjoyment fresh.

    In my opinion, Underground is a masterpiece of modern cinema. The film is a surreal feast, rich in visual splendour and dark humour. Amid all the random craziness, Underground is also an emotional experience, with an ending of sublime beauty. The dark humour and surreal ambience perfectly masks the emotional impact of the final act.

    Spanning some fifty-three years in narrative, Underground is Emir Kusturica's heart-felt tribute to his beloved country and its people. If you have a passion for world cinema, this film is an essential addition to your DVD collection.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Underground is presented in the correct aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is 16x9 enhanced.

    To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from this transfer - how wrong could I be. I'm confidant in saying that this is probably the best transfer of Underground available in a SD format. Umbrella has delivered a visually striking transfer, with a clarity that really surprised me. A wonderful level of sharpness and clarity is sustained throughout the entire film. Blacks were clean, deep and free from low-level noise. Shadows held an incredible degree of detail.

    The colours of Underground are generally beautiful and vibrant. Kusturica uses a vastly different palette of colour for his underground world, which displays a limited and subdued range. The colours of his "above ground" world are full and lush, displaying a far more extensive palette. All colours appear natural and are superbly balanced on the disc.

    There were no MPEG artefacts evident in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were not a significant issue and film artefacts were almost non-existent.

    English subtitles are available on the DVD. They are easily legible in bold white and are removable.

    This is a DVD 9 disc. The layer change was easily noticed during a scene at 102:24.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track available on the DVD, Serbo-Croatian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), which is surround encoded.

    Without any understanding of the languages, the dialogue did appear to be strong and concise.

    There were no apparent problems with audio sync.

    The original music score is credited to Goran Bregovic. Music is a constant theme throughout the film, with Goran's score combining well with traditional music. The score also enhances the surreal and frantic nature of the film extremely well.

    The surround channels carried a nice mix of music, with the occasional effect. A good example is the bombing scene early in the film, which gave the surrounds some real presence.

    Likewise, the subwoofer came to life on occasion, especially during scenes involving thunder and explosions.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    

Menu

    The main menu is static, 16x9 enhanced and features a sample of music from the film.

 

Featurette - Behind-the-scenes (20:49)

    As the title suggests, this short piece features plenty of behind-the-scenes footage in combination with interviews with many cast and crew members.

Theatrical Trailer

    Underground (1:05)

Umbrella Trailers

  • Europa Europa (2:10)
  • The Thief (2:25)
  • The Tin Drum (3:26)
  • Roman De Gare (1:38)

    R4 vs R1

    NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

        There is a R1 edition of Underground , which was released way back in December 2003 by New Yorker Video. This edition is very similar in terms of transfers (obviously the R1 has a NTSC transfer), but differs in extras. The R1 edition only features a brief three minute interview with Emir Kusturica and a couple of trailers.

        There is also a R2 edition of the film, which was released in October 2006 by Artificial Eye. This edition features the addition of a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix, Emir Kusturica biography, Cannes after show party and three trailers. This R2 version also contains the same twenty minute behind-the-scenes extra as the Umbrella edition.

        Noting the additions on the aforementioned R2 version, it seems to just shade the local edition.

    Summary

        It's interesting that Emir Kusturica lists Federico Fellini and Andrei Tarkovsky as his main cinematic inspirations. I believe that had Fellini lived to see this film, there seems little doubt that he would have approved. Highly recommended.

        The video and audio transfers are excellent and do justice to the film.

        The selection of extras is minimal, but interesting and relevant. Hopefully, Emir Kusturica might one day record an audio commentary for the film.

     

  • Ratings (out of 5)

    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    Plot
    Overall

    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Thursday, July 30, 2009
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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