Definitely a precursor to today’s political re-mix videos. Passionate agit-pop that incarnated all the hopes and dreams that the socialist project promised. Alvarez’s videos are intense projections that sear the conservative canons of capitalist ideology; the whole market system and the violent underpinnings that haunt the meaningless pop culture that feeds it. Alvarez chases flashes of the unconscious agitation against this world where the inwardly homeless and uprooted, part of an historic eternity, haunt the present context as they do his films. The message is stark: life endures. courageously, heroically even if its backed into a corner with death closing in. Alvarez feeds us a connected series of symbols, iconic, socialist commodities that encapsulate the the sorrow and tragedy that the pretensions of capitalist democracy literally vomit and defecate over the body politic.
Alvarez, a committed son of Castro’s revolution and a natural successor to the great Russian Dziga Vertov, would be classed as a documentarist if he hadn’t always denied this. Instead, he called himself a “news pamphleteer” who, like Vertov, had to react to events as fast as possible since “he who hits first hits twice”.
His methodology as a socialist was to attempt to use images as powerfully as they are used in the west to sell goods: “The advertisements of capitalism are, in fact, much better than the product,” he claimed. “The Jesuits were their precursors. Remember that saying about giving them a child? Remember too the famous old-style Coca-Cola bottle? Why do you think it was designed like that? Feel it and you will find out. It is in the shape of a woman wearing the long dresses of teatime. When a woman has a good body, we say in Cuba that she is Coca-Cola.” Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/1999/jun/17/derekmalcolmscenturyoffilm.derekmalcolm
What Western democracies, of the left or right, as Alvarez represents in his films; all the rhetorical higher values are pretense for what an H.G. Wells would call ” the merciful obliteration of weak and silly and pointless things.” By nature, these societies need to attack the enfranchised “unfit” What Alvarez transforms is the style of American social realist art of a Ben Shahn, a John Steinbeck, a Woody Guthrie and create reactionary appropriation as symbolic monuments, moving monuments that will authoritatively dictate the parameters of memory, very much based on the Herbert Marcuse and Adorno theories of conformity within the culture that may not be valid, or at least in the traumatic measures Alvarez has used to translate these individuals ( LBJ etc.) into symbols that may violate more clear sited glimpses on a passage to revisit the infinite.
Revolutionaries are out of style. But the point about Alvarez is not just his emotional commitment, which in itself is often surprisingly moving as well as effective: it is his amazing skill as a film-maker that hits the nerve-ends. “Give me two photographs, a moviola and some music and I’ll make you a film,” he once said. He was true to his word. Working quickly and with equipment film-makers would now reject as totally inadequate, he made a series of films in the 60s and early 70s that have yet to be beaten either as propaganda, as newsreels or as pieces of brilliantly improvised cinema. Why have we forgotten him? Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/1999/jun/17/derekmalcolmscenturyoffilm.derekmalcolm