Tuesday 15 October 2013

Death Of A Bureaucrat [1966]

Death of a Bureaucrat, directed by Cuban filmmaker Alea right before his international breakthrough Memories of Under development, was a trenchant and tar black satire on how incessant and mindless government bureaucracy, protocols and red tape can literally drive even the sanest person crazy. Though made in the context of Castro-ruled Cuba, even someone like me belonging to a separate era and diametrically different time zone could savour the farcical humour, barbed observations and pointed jabs at the very foundation of the system. The absurdist story begins with the death of a party loyalist who invented a machine to mass-produce statuettes of José de San Martín and dies in the process. Heeding to the silly wishes of the grandiloquent priest and the few mourners who attended his funeral, his identification card is buried along with him, and this dumb decision lands his ageing wife in a fix, as the card is needed in order to avail pension. And thus starts a Kafkaesque odyssey for the dead man’s young nephew, as his experiences with the government departments drive him to his wit’s ends and land him in a series of darkly hilarious scenarios which are enough to push anyone off the edge. Though replete with memorable gags, including some straight-out homage to silent comedies, the underlying ordeal of a common man and the ludicrous ironies he’s made to endure ad nauseum wouldn’t be lost on anyone. The fine score added to the film’s charm. In a cheeky move, Alea dedicated the film to everyone – from Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy, to Luis Bunuel, and even Marilyn Monroe since the days of Lumiere Brothers.

Director: Tomas Gutierrez Alea
Genre: Comedy/Black Comedy/Social Satire/Political Satire
Language: Spanish
Country: Cuba

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