Memories of Underdevelopment (1968)

“Everything happens to me too early or too late…”

Memories of Underdevelopment Poster

Synopsis:
An apolitical bourgeois writer named Sergio (Sergio Carmona Mendoyo) remains in Cuba after the revolution, despite the fact that his parents and ex-wife have fled to America.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
This enigmatic, complicated film — the first from “post-revolutionary Cuba to be released in the United States” — focuses on one man’s personal attempt to make sense of the rapid changes occurring in his country. Director Tomas Gutierrez Alea draws overt parallels between Sergio’s “underdeveloped” new girlfriend (Daisy Granados), the “underdeveloped” nation of post-revolutionary Cuba, and Sergio’s own “underdeveloped” sense of political agency. As Peary notes, it’s “hard for us to figure out Alea’s feeling towards his protagonist” — is he capable of being radicalized? — but Alea’s supplementary use of documentary footage astutely shows “the need for the revolution in Cuba and the need to preserve” its positive changes.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A rare portrait of post-revolutionary bourgeoisie in Cuba
    Memories of Underdevelopment Still
  • An eclectic mix of stills, documentary footage, freeze frames, and fictional narrative

Must See?
Yes. This movie holds a special place in Cuban film history.

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(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Memories of Underdevelopment (1968)”

  1. First viewing. A once-must, for its place in cinema history and for its historical / cultural value in general.

    Perhaps now that this film is part of the Criterion collection (I just saw it at Filmstruck / Criterion, online), it has become an easier film to find. (A copy of the DVD has been in my university library for years but a percentage of library copies require region-free players, which I don’t have…though I suppose I could have watched it *at* the library, but…)

    I found this to be a very compelling time-capsule of an unsettled country seemingly at odds with itself and without clear definition. (I am not all that up on Cuba’s political history and am only aware of bits and pieces; in part from other films and documentaries dealing with Cuba.) The real surprise (given the subject matter) is that the film is able to avoid seeming confused as it attempts to unveil the confusion overtaking the country, leaving it without much by way of identity.

    Ideology aside, ‘Memories…’ has its focus on average, everyday people – the losers in the struggle for power. As the film’s title suggests, what we watch is something of a tone-poem; we’re meant to comprehend more through feeling and absorbing…particularly the political aspect – the human aspect, on the other hand, is abundantly clear.

    A real plus for the film comes courtesy of DP Ramón F. Suárez and Editor Nelson Rodríguez. Director Alea fashioned a rather fluid viewing experience, which moves along with effective economy.

    Those more in tune with Cuban history will, of course, get more out of this, but it nevertheless stands as required viewing.

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