A Cuban Masterpiece Returns to the Screen in a New Restoration

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s Memories of Underdevelopment, a reflective drama that stands as one of the most important works of Cuban cinema, marks its fiftieth anniversary this year. To celebrate the occasion, Janus Films is putting a new 4K restoration into theaters, a release that commences today as the movie begins a weeklong run at New York City’s Film Forum. The intimate and stylistically innovative Memories—which became the first film from postrevolutionary Cuba to be shown in the United States—offers a remarkable glimpse of 1960s Havana, aligning closely with the perspective of its self-consciously urbane protagonist to convey, and critique, his growing sense of romantic and political disengagement. Below, see how the critics have been hailing the gorgeously restored film.

  • In the New York Times, J. Hoberman judges Memories to be “a first-rate movie and a remarkable document—not least for the reception it first received in the United States.” He goes on to recount much of the dramatic story, replete with the seizure of the film by federal agents.
  • It’s “one of the greatest pictures ever made,” writes Bilge Ebiri in the Village Voice, praising how it alternates “between immediacy and reflection, fantasy and honesty, lyricism and horror.”
  • “This audacious, sensual portrait of an alienated intellectual in Castro’s Cuba, circa 1961, is one of the great movies of the sixties,” declares Michael Sragow in the New Yorker.
  • Tobi Haslett, writing in 4Columns, parses Memories’ nuanced politics, situating Gutiérrez Alea’s film as “a wry survey of an underdeveloped city in an underdeveloped nation, a place both brightened and scrambled by socialist promise.”

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