Memories of Underdevelopment Screen 12 articles

Memories of Underdevelopment


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  • It is one of the most interesting and provocative films you will see all yaer, and it has the merit of describing its own society in all its troublesome ambiguities. All in all, it is the eloquent antithesis to impersonal agitprop.

  • Alea, both a theorist and an artist, reached his apogee of expression in his Memories del subdearrollo (Memories of Underdevelopment) (1968). This film unites various narrational strategies. Memories’ narrational strategies create a complex film, both entertaining and didactic.

  • It remains a difficult and enigmatic work precisely because Cuba has yet to emerge from a kind of historical and cultural vacuum created by the vise of foreign threats, invasions and embargoes. And like Sergio, the country and its people can only wallow in the unfulfilled promise of its revolutionary consciousness.

  • Alea made full use of the handheld camera technique in addition to voiceover, which, despite the protagonist’s moral ambiguity, give the film a remarkable level of unity and completeness. . . . Aesthetically, Memories resembles the early-’60s work of Antonioni. Its mood, conveying the characters’ labyrinth of moral ambiguity and detachment and the use of long, isolating camera takes gazing at deserted streets and characters’ faces, are all key elements of the Italian director’s oeuvre.

  • Despite being held from American distribution until 1973, the eventual worldwide recognition of Underdevelopment as one of Cuba's finest films speaks as much for the frozen moment it captures as for its unimpeachable quality.

  • Even better than I remembered; knew about the politics and fascinating lead character, had forgotten the fizzy late-60s energy - also of course I'm bound to identify with someone who lives on (and often feels at odds with) a smallish island, also of course I'm older now and appreciate the poignancy more.

  • A masterpiece of Godardian self-reflexivity from 1968... Far from being the work of Communist propaganda that one might expect from a Cuban film of this era, however, MEMORIES is instead a deeply ambiguous character study and a brilliantly fragmented work of cinematic modernism.

  • The film plays like a memory—often gliding between past and present, purposely distorting the audience’s temporal perception. Like Alain Resnais did with Hiroshima Mon Amour, Alea ingrains an impactful moment of a country’s recent history into a poetic retelling, underlining cinema’s function as a collective consciousness and a mechanism to preserve national memory.

  • Far from presenting the Cuban Revolution as the ultimate act of emancipatory perfection, the film dissects it in all its contradictions and looks at it through the eyes of a man who seems to be benefiting the least from it, and yet remains open to the uncertainty of utopia rather than fleeing to the reactionary safety of Miami, doubtfully observing from the sidelines the painful evolution of a newly born reality.

  • While closely adapted from Mr. Desnoes’s novel, Alea’s film is greatly enriched by interpolated newsreel material. Sergio’s alienation is placed in the context of pre-revolutionary poverty and post-revolutionary political trials, as well the aftermath of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. “Memories” is a very much a new wave film in its freewheeling mix of cinéma vérité-style hand-held street scenes and playful freeze frames.

  • For all its stylish disaffection and New Wave chic, Memories of Underdevelopment stands as a righteous exemplar of “imperfect cinema,” a phrase coined by the Cuban filmmaker Julio García Espinosa in his famous manifesto from 1969. It’s a brisk, crackling document, swiveling furiously to inspect the material conditions and ideological attachments that foster and hinder a truly revolutionary cinema.

  • Though fictional, Alea’s film mixes a variety of forms, incorporating both documentary footage shot by the director on the streets of Havana as well as archival historical images. As such, it’s also often purposefully grainy, washed out, imperfect. Alternating between immediacy and reflection, fantasy and honesty, lyricism and horror, Memories of Underdevelopment feels like it’s being created before our very eyes.

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