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La muerte de un burócrata (1966)

Unrated  |   |  Comedy  |  24 July 1966 (Cuba)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 660 users  
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A young man attempts to fight the system in an entertaining account of bureaucracy amok and the tyranny of red tape.

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Complete credited cast:
Salvador Wood ...
Silvia Planas ...
Manuel Estanillo ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Omar Alfonso ...
Tania Alvarado
Pedro Pablo Astorga
Alicia Bustamante
Gaspar De Santelices ...
Nephew's boss
Rafael Díaz
Roberto Gacio
Carlos Gargallo
Elsa Montero ...
Rolando de los Reyes
Fausto Rodríguez
Luis Romay ...
El Zorro


A Cuban worker dies accidentally and is buried together with his union card. It soon turns out that the widow will absolutely need the card for claiming her pension. Young nephew starts his hilarious fight against the authorities in order to disinter and rebury his uncle and retrieve the precious document. Written by Markku Kuoppamäki

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Release Date:

24 July 1966 (Cuba)  »

Also Known As:

Death of a Bureaucrat  »

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User Reviews

THE DEATH OF A BUREAUCRAT (Tomas Gutierrez Alea, 1966) ***
16 December 2007 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Although I have consciously kept my foreign film viewing to a minimum during this Christmas season, I couldn't resist purchasing this one (whose release on R2 DVD from Network came literally out of left field) and watching it instantly, given its opening dedication to many an exponent of cinema (more on this later). As far as I can recall, it also marks my introduction to Cuban cinema – which, as can be surmised by the title, deals with the country's social structure; considering the political situation of the time in which it was made, this is hardly a surprise…but, what is unexpected is the fact that it treats the subject matter as black comedy!

The plot resolves itself in a succession of ironic developments with respect to the pension coming to the widowed wife of a veritable working-class hero (his sculpting endeavors and unfortunate demise are depicted via a stylized animation sequence): to get it, she needs her husband's union card – but his equally proletarian comrades had it buried with him as a symbolic gesture. Her milquetoast nephew, who's really the hero of the film, decides to have the body exhumed – but, officially, two years have to pass before this can be legitimately done; so, he hires two men to steal the body and then proposes to have it buried once more – but, since there's no record of it having been exhumed in the first place, technically, this isn't possible either. And so on and so forth, with numerous episodes involving legal red tape (which ought to bring a smile and a strong sense of empathy to anyone who has ever dealt with a government entity)…until the young man is literally driven to madness and murder! The film, then, ends with the funeral of this other bureaucrat…

Going back to that dedication I mentioned earlier, the full text (typed on screen along with the film's full credits at the very beginning and signed by the director) reads thus: "The film is dedicated to Luis Bunuel, Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, Ingmar Bergman, Harold Lloyd, Akira Kurosawa, Orson Welles, Juan Carlos Tabio, Elia Kazan, Buster Keaton, Jean Vigo, Marilyn Monroe and all those who, in one way or another, have taken part in the film industry since the days of Lumiere." This is no faint praise, either, as THE DEATH OF A BUREAUCRAT features a handful of Bunuelian dream sequences and a general mockery of Christian burial services (one highly amusing little scene is when the nephew pilfers ice cubes for his drink from his aunt's supply – who is forever breaking ice in order to preserve her husband's body!); a delightful tit-for-tat routine of wanton destruction occurring, of all places, at the cemetery (and which even develops into a Laurel & Hardy-style custard pie fight!); and, at one point, we're also treated to some Harold Lloyd-type antics on a ledge when our hero finds himself locked inside an office building!

Director Tomas Gutierrez Alea is himself generally considered to be the finest Cuban film-maker and among his other works worth mentioning are THE TWELVE CHAIRS (1962; which is also available on R2 DVD from Network and the 1970 Mel Brooks version of which, incidentally, I've just acquired), MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT (1968), THE LAST SUPPER (1976) and the Oscar nominated STRAWBERRY AND CHOCOLATE (1994); the local DVD shop has the latter available for rental and, as a result of this positive experience with Cuban cinema, I will certainly be giving it a spin one of these days…

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