MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT
Wednesday, June 5
(1968, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea) Post-Bay of Pigs Havana, a bourgeois, would-be writer Sergio Corrieri sees off his parents (they embrace) and wife (they don’t). He attempts to write, observes the city through a telescope from his très 60s apartment balcony, and wanders through the streets, book stores, and art galleries, always aware of glances from women, fantasizing about his cleaning lady – then seducing Daisy Granados’ nervous/passionate working class teen. He watches a reel of sexy scenes cut from Hollywood movies by Batista era censors and attends a literary round table. We finally find out how he lives during an evaluation of his apartment by seeming commissars. He sweats his way through an embarrassing trial, and listens to a vintage Castro rant during the Missile Crisis. All filtered through brooding voice-overs, newsreels, and hidden camera treks through the city. DCP. Approx. 98 min.
Restored by the Cineteca di Bologna in association with the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC), and funded by the George Lucas Family Foundation and The Film Foundation's World Cinema Project.
“ONE OF THE GREATEST FILMS EVER MADE. AS ESSENTIAL AS CINEMA GETS… Alternating between immediacy and reflection, fantasy and honesty, lyricism and horror, Memories of Underdevelopment feels like it’s being created before our very eyes… [With its] uneasy juxtaposition of documentary and drama, its occasional forays into agitprop, its combination of narrative episodes that alternate between the lyrical and the perverse, its rough, raw passages butting up against professionally shot and edited scenes […] this beautiful, purposefully inconsistent film shows us, maybe that kind of chaos is what’s required to build a better world, and a better cinema.”
– Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice
“A FIRST-RATE MOVIE AND A REMARKABLE DOCUMENT… That [director Tomás Gutiérrez] Alea, who made numerous films in Cuba before his death in 1996, could be simultaneously a dangerous alien and a free-speech hero is a perverse tribute to his film’s nuanced politics. Memories is not only shot in black and white but also composed in shades of gray.”
– J. Hoberman, The New York Times
“This audacious, sensual portrait of an alienated intellectual in Castro’s Cuba, circa 1961, is one of the great movies of the sixties. There’s a ruthless, universal brand of comedy in [Sergio Corrieri’s] more fatuous deeds and utterances: he views the revolution as his personal revenge against the stupidity of the Cuban bourgeoisie. But the movie is also full of tough-minded mystery.”
– Michael Sragow, The New Yorker
“A DAZZLING PIECE OF WORK, not just for its political bravery and relentlessly challenging outlook. It’s also a sly and witty but still heartfelt character study, with moments of real warmth glittering amid the revolutionary rubble. With the phrase ‘developing country’ now arbitrarily applied to approximately two thirds of the globe, Alea’s clear-sighted examination of what it means to be ‘developed’, both personally and politically, feels more apposite than ever. That he also manages to tackle questions of what it means to be successful in that same context, what it means to be free, to be aware, to be alive, simply confirms his film as one of the true greats of radical cinema.”
– Tom Huddleston, Time Out [London]
“A film about alienation that is wise, sad and often funny. Sergio is detached and wary, but around him is a hurricane of life… The result is hugely effective and moving, and it is complete in the way that very few movies ever are.”
– Vincent Canby, The New York Times
“Alea proceeds with dazzling and highly accomplished technique towards a perceptive and witty analysis.”
– Rod McShane, Time Out [London]