Arlecchino Cinema > 21:30


Tomás Gutiérrez Alea



Wednesday 26/08/2020


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

On the recurring theme of bureaucracy, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea has made a very current, lively, comic, satirical and, of course, anti-bureaucratic film. A serious blow for those who claim to fight against the evils of bureaucracy and then invent new forms and counter-forms… Gutiérrez Alea takes a real life event, distorts it and develops it in several directions. The case of a widow who cannot claim her pension because her husband – a model worker, the inventor of a machine for mass-producing busts – was buried with his union card in his pocket. As stated in the opening credits, the film pays tribute to Luis Buñuel, Jean Vigo, Laurel and Hardy, and to all those who have made the existence of cinema possible, from the Lumière brothers to today… Many scenes feature black humour: digging up the corpse to retrieve the union card, the nephew’s Buñuelian dreams, the first burial. But there are also influences from other styles: the Kafkaesque persecution of the nephew, for example, or the incident with the cemetery administrator, which is reminiscent of certain silent comedies. Death of a Bureaucrat hits the nail on the head and lashes out against everything that should be eradicated after the Revolution: those who act at the expense of the people, such as any capitalist boss who randomly imposes his every whim; followers of ‘bustphilia’ who place Martí statues at every corner, in every bar and, if they could, in every public bathroom, without any respect for the sacred figure of the Apostle of Independence; those who exploit the Revolution to live a so-called ‘sweet life’. Last, Gutiérrez Alea puts the Latin motto castigat ridendo mores into practice. In other words, correct habits (in this case, bad habits) with laughter… In addition to the film’s excellent cinematic production, which can be seen in its lively rhythm, Ramón Suárez’s skilful photography, the brilliant gags, the effective and well-recorded soundtrack, the film’s strong point is the directing of the actors… Gutiérrez Alea found an outstanding comic actor in Salvador Wood, who plays the nephew. He makes people laugh not because he makes jokes, but because he manages to turn a serious and basically tragic role into comedy. Death of a Bureaucrat is one of the best services that cinema could offer to the Revolution.

Mario Rodríguez Alemán, “Mujeres”, 1st August 1966

The original negative of La muerte de un burócrata was first evaluated in Havana in 2016 by archivists from both the Cineteca de Cuba and the Academy Film Archive. Though the physical condition initially seemed promising, the first scan in Los Angeles was problematic – as image stability and focus were severely affected by shrinkage from acetate deterioration. Multiple scanning techniques at Roundabout Entertainment finally provided a sharp and steady 4K scan. Image restoration was only extensively needed for a two-minute section in one reel, where the same acetate deterioration had caused the emulsion to stick, and then later tear away from the film. The sound was restored at Audio Mechanics in Burbank, California.

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, G. Alfredo del Cueto, Ramón F. Suárez. F.: Ramón F. Suárez. M.: Mario González. Scgf.: Luis Márquez. Mus.: Leo Brouwer. Int.: Salvador Wood (Juanchín, il nipote), Silvia Planas (la vedova), Manuel Estanillo (il funzionario dell’amministrazione cimiteriale), Omar Alfonso (Cojimar), Gaspar de Santelices (il capo di Juanchín), Luis Romay (El Zorro), Carlos Ruiz de la Tejera (lo pschiatra), Richard Suarez (Tarafa). Prod.: Margarita Alexandre per Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industrias Cinematográficos. DCP. Bn.


Director: Tomás Gutiérrez Alea
Year: 1974
Country: Cuba
Running time: 7'