Our work focuses on unsupervised and generative methods that address the following goals: (1) learning unsupervised generative representations that discover latent factors controlling image semantic attributes, (2) studying how this ability to control attributes formally relates to the issue of latent factor disentanglement, clarifying related but dissimilar concepts that had been confounded in the past, and (3) developing anomaly detection methods that leverage representations learned in the first goal. For goal 1, we propose a network architecture that exploits the combination of multiscale generative models with mutual information (MI) maximization. For goal 2, we derive an analytical result, lemma 1, that brings clarity to two related but distinct concepts: the ability of generative networks to control semantic attributes of images they generate, resulting from MI maximization, and the ability to disentangle latent space representations, obtained via total correlation minimization. More specifically, we demonstrate that maximizing semantic attribute control encourages disentanglement of latent factors. Using lemma 1 and adopting MI in our loss function, we then show empirically that for image generation tasks, the proposed approach exhibits superior performance as measured in the quality and disentanglement of the generated images when compared to other state-of-the-art methods, with quality assessed via the Fréchet inception distance (FID) and disentanglement via mutual information gap. For goal 3, we design several systems for anomaly detection exploiting representations learned in goal 1 and demonstrate their performance benefits when compared to state-of-the-art generative and discriminative algorithms. Our contributions in representation learning have potential applications in addressing other important problems in computer vision, such as bias and privacy in AI.