Memorias del subdesarrollo

Directed by: Tomás Gutiérrez Alea

Cuba | 1968 | Drama | 96 min | Black & White

Spanish w/ English Subtitles

 

Screening

Sunday July 24 06:30 pm

Vancity Theatre

Synopsis

A middle-class intellectual who stayed in Cuba after the Revolution in 1959 faces a new world he does not seem to grasp. Selected among the best 2000 films of all times by the International Federation of Film-Clubs. Based on Edmundo Desnoes’s award-winning novel.

The story is related in the form of a diary by a prosperous bourgeois who chooses to stay in Havana when his family leaves for the States in 1961. While he rejects many of the bourgeois ideals of his upbringing, he is unable to shake off either sexual neurosis or his European-based intellectual paralysis, continuing to live uncertainly as a rent-drawing property-owner. The ’underdevelopment’ of the title is a complex pun describing both individual and national problems of the revolution in its infancy, though the film is anything but literary in its attack: Alea proceeds with dazzling and highly accomplished technique towards a perceptive and witty analysis.

In a newly formed society driven by collective effort, the extended solipsism engaged by Sergio (Sergio Correri - I Am Cuba) allows him a paradoxical perspective. Like Dostoevsky’s Underground Man, he is an acute observer of people, in a society he is himself utterly alienated from. Through Sergio, Memories of Underdevelopment chronicles a specific historical moment: situated between the Bay of Pigs invasions of April 1961 to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Sergio’s family joins the mass exodus to Miami in the wake of the revolution. Choosing to remain behind, Sergio passes his time in frivolous womanizing despite being haunted by the notion of“underdevelopment”: the consciousness of a wealthy man in a nation beset by poverty.

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea became a shining star of Cuban cinema as a result of the commercial and critical success of Memories of Underdevelopment. Influenced by John Cassavetes and Alain Resnais, Alea fashioned a unique approach to film grammar which dissolved the lines between drama, documentary, essay and newsreel.

"This audacious, sensual portrait of an alienated intellectual in the early days of Castro’s Cuba, released in 1968, is one of the great movies of its era." Michael Sragow, New Yorker

"This transfixing movie, with its mix of freewheeling dialogue scenes, still photo images and documentary footage, conjures up the uncertain mood of Havana just after the revolution." Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian