June 04, 1979 12:00 PM

Though aimed at Cuba’s bloated bureaucracy, this sharp-witted satire could apply to any modern country. Director Tomás (Memories of Underdevelopment) Gutierrez Alea, whose career dates back pre-Castro, has combined the black humor of Catch-22 with the hijinks of the Marx Brothers, and the result is hilarious. A Cuban worker who has spent his life making plaster statues of a national hero dies and, as a tribute, his family buries his union card with him. But soon his bereaved widow discovers that she must have it in order to collect her pension. Thus begins a nightmarish attempt to exhume the body that tends toward slapstick, but always with an edge: In one scene, the dead man’s nephew, frustrated by red tape, tries to strangle the cemetery manager behind a tombstone. Made in 1966, but unreleased in the U.S. until now, the film presents startling evidence of the vitality of the Cuban cinema. In Spanish, with English subtitles. (Not rated)

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