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Memories of Underdevelopment aka "Memorias del subdesarrollo" [Blu-ray]
(Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1968)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industrias Cinematográficos (ICAIC)
Video:Mr. Bongo / Criterion Collection - Spine # 943
Region: FREE/ Region 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Runtime: 1:38:37.500 / 1:38:53.928
Disc Size: 22,808,213,267 bytes / 46,833,545,730 bytes
Feature Size: 22,728,425,472 bytes / 26,807,906,304 bytes
Video Bitrate: 26.93 Mbps / 32.16 Mbps
Chapters: 7 / 20
Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray case
Release date: February 17th, 2017 / August 28th, 2018
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio Spanish 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio Spanish 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
• New interviews with film critics B.
Ruby Rich and José Antonio Évora (18:54)
Description: Memories of Underdevelopment follows
Sergio (Sergio Corrieri – Soy Cuba), through his life,
following the departure of his wife, parents and friends in
the wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Alone in a brave new
world, Sergio observes the constant threat of foreign
invasion, before meeting Elena (Daisy Granados), a young
woman he seeks to mould into the image of his ex-wife, but
at what cost to himself?
Hailed as one of – if not the most – sophisticated films
ever to come out of Cuba, Memories of Underdevelopment
(Memorias Del Subdesarollo) is visionary Cuban
director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s tour de force. Now, thanks
to Mr Bongo Films, the film is set to arrive in a stunningly
restored version on UK Blu-ray
for the first time.
This film by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea is the most widely renowned work in the history of Cuban cinema. After his wife and family flee in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the bourgeois intellectual Sergio (Sergio Corrieri) passes his days wandering Havana in idle reflection, his amorous entanglements and political ambivalence gradually giving way to a mounting sense of alienation. With this adaptation of an innovative novel by Edmundo Desnoes, Gutiérrez Alea developed a cinematic style as radical as the times he was chronicling, creating a collage of vivid impressions through the use of experimental editing techniques, archival material, and spontaneously shot street scenes. Intimate and densely layered, Memories of Underdevelopment provides a biting indictment of its protagonist’s disengagement and an extraordinary glimpse of life in postrevolutionary Cuba.
The Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) was founded in 1959, only months after Castro came to power. It was some years, however, before its fruits were exposed to European and US audiences; Alea's film, his fifth feature, was the breakthrough. 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. Many critics at the time were surprised by the strain of self-criticism running through a film produced by what is virtually a government ministry in a Marxist country.Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE
A very dry title for an absolutely tremendous film from 1968 by the Cuban director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. 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. It is something to put alongside the Soviet classic Soy Cuba from 1964, and in fact stars a Cuban actor from that film, Sergio Corrieri gives an outstanding performance as a wealthy idler who long ago allowed his artistic aspirations to wilt. When the Batista regime falls, his family, friends and pampered wife all flee to Miami but for reasons that he cannot quite explain, Sergio stays in the new Cuba, drifting, yet weirdly exhilarated and liberated. He becomes entangled in an messy affair with a 17-year-old, and ponders the fact that he has become like a decadent plant, with huge leaves and no fruit. Cuba, he now sees, has been "underdeveloped" according to the Marxist analysis, and his tragedy is that he can only dimly understand what part he has played in this, and has no clue as to how his own personal and spiritual underdevelopment might be remedied.Excerpt from TheGuardian located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Memories of Underdevelopment gets a 4K restoration transfer, thanks to the World Cinema Project and arrived on Blu-ray from Mr. Bongo in the UK. It's single-layered with a supportive bitrate for the 1.5 hour feature. There has been extensive restoration as noted by text screen informing us:
"Restored by Cineteca di
Bologna at L'Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in association
with Instituto Cubana del Arte e Industria Cinematograficos
After all that, I'd say the resulting presentation should be considered a success. There are sequences of inconsistency but, example, the fact that the archival footage in most films usually differs in quality - I didn't find it a major issue in viewing Memorias del subdesarrollo. There is pleasing grain - it is not overly digitized as we have seen from some Ritrovata restorations - and we can frequently see depth in the visuals - more apparent as the film advances into the second half. It's far from perfect but viewers should appreciate the work done and will find a decent, highly watchable, black and white, 60's film video in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. I think we'd be foolish to expect more from this.
The Criterion is from the same World Cinema Project 4K-restoration but it is transferred on a dual-layered Blu-ray with a higher bitrate. This is apparent in the darker black levels that provide a more appealing HD presentation. It is in the same 1.66:1 aspect ratio but the richer, deeper black levels improve the detail and it maintains the grain and it advances beyond the Mr. Bongo appearance.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
The Mr. Bongo Blu-ray of Memories of Underdevelopment uses a, fairly robust, linear PCM 2.0 channel (24-bit). The sound quality, is again at the mercy of the restoration ability, but seemed acceptable to me with only a few imperfect transitions. The score is by Leo Brouwer - the Afro-Cuban composer, classical guitarist and conductor and the lone guitar pieces definitely suit the film inferring a very introspective feeling. it's flat but sounds quite clean via the uncompressed. There are optional English subtitles (sample above) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE.
Criterion also use a linear PCM (24-bit) track in 1.0 channel mono in the original Spanish language. I could hear any significant differences from the Mr. Bongo Blu-ray audio. The Criterion offers optional English subtitles on a Region 'A'-locked Blu-ray.
Unfortunately no extras at all - not even a theatrical trailer. Certainly it deserves some discussion or at least a liner notes leaflet.
Criterion stack the extras starting with a new 20-minute interviews with film critics B. Ruby Rich and José Antonio Évora plus a new 1/4 hour interview with novelist and screenwriter Edmundo Desnoes author of Inconsolable Memories, talks about adapting his novel to the screen for Memories of Underdevelopment. The big extra is the 1.5 hour Titón: From Havana to “Guantanamera,” a 2008 documentary on director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s life and career directed by Mirta Ibarra. There is also an audio segment from a 1989 interview with Gutiérrez Alea running shy of a dozen minutes and segments from 2017 interviews with actor Daisy Granados for 10, interesting, minutes and a separate one with editor Nelson Rodríguez for over 1/4 hour - both from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Visual History Collection archives. There is a trailer for the film and the packager has a liner notes booklet with an essay by author Joshua Jelly-Schapiro.
Mr. Bongo - Region FREE Blu-ray
Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Yes, a fascinating political dissertation in the first person that is still very interesting and socially revealing on many fronts. The Criterion Blu-ray is a vast step ahead of the Mr. Bongo package with the super image and extensive extras. An important and engaging film experience. Strongly recommended!
February 22nd, 2017
July 21st, 2018
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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