HELMER SET TO TRIM LENGTHY ‘UNDERGROUND’

Emir Kusturica’s “Underground” was in good enough shape to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes last month, but festgoers who saw the pic and go to watch it again when it gets its theatrical release later this year won’t see the same film.

Kusturica is back in the cutting room, looking to chop about 20 minutes from his epic black comedy. While reviews were upbeat, most critics agreed that the pic was on the long side.

Variety described “Underground” as a “mammoth film” that left the audience “dazed and exhausted, but mightily impressed.”

Gallic production company Ciby 2000, while reveling in the fact that Kusturica has given them their second Palme d’Or in three years (“The Piano” was their first winner), is looking for a final copy no longer than 170 minutes long, instead of the 192 minutes screened at Cannes.

Sources close to the project say that Kusturica was well aware that he had not completed editing in May, but turned in the 192-minute version to make the Cannes competition.

One question hovering over the pic is whether the meticulous helmer will manage to finish a definitive version in time for an October release.

Prior to Cannes, Ciby Distribution had discussed an October launch, but last week November was being mentioned as a possible hardtop rendezvous.

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