NYC – The films of ROBERT KRAMER retrospective begins tonight at Anthology


Above: a still from Ice (courtesy: Kramer Ink)

We don’t often run straight press releases here on the Arthur blog, but we’re gonna make an exception here. From our friends at New York City’s great Anthology Film Archives:

July 17-23

* First NYC retro in a decade devoted to committed radical American filmmaker
* Prime mover behind Newsreel movement

BRAND NEW 35MM PRINT of 1975’s MILESTONES will be shown!
The circulation of a new print of Robert Kramer’s 1975 film MILESTONES provides the perfect impetus for the first NYC retrospective in almost a decade devoted to one of the greatest and most committed of all radical American filmmakers. Among the prime movers behind the Newsreel movement, an underground media collective which produced some sixty documentaries and short films about radical political subjects and the anti-war movement, Kramer’s own early films are remarkable reports on revolutionary struggles in Latin America and Vietnam. Increasingly turning his attention to the state of the radical movement in the United States, he developed a highly distinctive approach, an intermixing of fiction and non-fiction filmmaking, which he would continue to pursue following his departure for Europe in the early 1980s. Based in Paris for the rest of his life (he would pass away in 1999), he nevertheless maintained a dialogue with the U.S., most memorably in his epic masterpiece, ROUTE ONE/USA.

Along with the new print of MILESTONES, this series will include all of his early American films, as well as ROUTE ONE/USA.

Special thanks to Adam Sekuler (Northwest Film Forum), Keja Kramer, Audrey Hilaire (Capricci Films), Kitty Cleary (MoMA), Richard Copans & Gaya Jiji (Les Films d’Ici), Marie-Pierre Lessard (Cinémathèque Québécoise), and Haden Guest & David Pendleton (Harvard Film Archive).

To be screened:

1966, 65 minutes, 16mm.
During the Vietnam War, a young revolutionary, isolated with his lover in a country house, struggles to comprehend his self-inflicted inactivity and his alienation from former political associates. In what is essentially a two-character psychological drama, Kramer first articulates a theme – the need to reconcile private life with public commitment – that is central to his work.
“The film is a reflection of the way people use words to hide, to use them as masks and anti-truth. The real influence behind the film is [Dreyer’s] GERTRUD. I love that movie so much.” –Robert Kramer
–Friday, July 17 at 6:45 and Thursday, July 23 at 6:30.

1975, 195 minutes, 35mm. Co-directed by John Douglas.
A many-faceted portrait of those individuals who sought radical solutions to social problems in the United States during the 1960s and 70s, MILESTONES cuts back and forth between six major story lines and more than fifty characters, and across a vast landscape to explore the lifestyles and attitudes of those survivors of the American left who faced both personal and historic transitions in the period following the Vietnam War. Shot in a documentary style, the film ends with an actual childbirth, which serves in part to symbolize the birth of new forms of cultural resistance and of renewed faith in the possibility of progressive action.
“MILESTONES is as carefully arranged as a piece of music. …[U]sing images, emotions and, most frequently, words as themes, it bursts with unexpected life.” –Vincent Canby, NEW YORK TIMES
–Friday, July 17 at 8:30, Saturday, July 18 at 3:15, and Thursday, July 23 at 8:00.

1969, 135 minutes, 16mm.
This pioneering work is the first of Kramer’s films to blur the boundaries between fiction and documentary, an approach Kramer would pursue throughout his subsequent career. An underground revolutionary group struggles against internal strife and stages guerilla attacks against a fictional fascist regime in the U.S. Kramer intercuts rhetorical sequences that explain the group’s philosophy of radical action and serve to restrain the melodrama inherent in the thriller genre. Shot in the gray landscape of NYC in a gritty cinéma-vérité style, ICE is reminiscent of Godard’s ALPHAVILLE. Jonas Mekas wrote that ICE was “the most original and significant American narrative film of the late sixties.”
–Saturday, July 18 at 7:00 and Monday, July 20 at 8:45.

1965, 25 minutes, 16mm. Co-directed by Peter Gessner.
A straightforward account of the birth of the revolutionary organization FALN. It traces the history of social and political unrest in Venezuela, which was aggravated by the interventionist policies of the United States and led to a split in relations between peasants and the forces in power.
1969, 40 minutes, 16mm.
Shot in North Vietnam in the summer of 1969 and narrated by the people themselves, this documentary creates a vivid portrait of the countryside and ways of life during the war. It focuses on the Vietnamese tactics of survival and resistance – their educational system, military training, industrial and cultural institutions, and forms of entertainment.
Total running time: ca. 70 minutes.
–Saturday, July 18 at 9:30 and Tuesday, July 21 at 7:00.

1979, 85 minutes, 16mm.
Combining newsreel footage, still photographs, interviews, and analytical narration, this documentary focuses on the anti-fascist, anti-imperialist efforts of labor groups, peasants, and working-class soldiers to liberate Portugal from the control of the Salazar government. Shot from April 1974 to November 1976, it relates the conflicts in Portugal to the liberation movements of the United States and South Africa in these revolutionary activities.
–Sunday, July 19 at 2:00 and Tuesday, July 21 at 8:30.

1967, 102 minutes, 16mm.
A troubled antiwar activist plans to assassinate the President of the United States. His resolve forces others in a fragmented and disillusioned group of political allies to face the threat of government counterintelligence and the temptations of middle-age security, and to reexamine their commitment to radical action.
–Sunday, July 19 at 4:15 and Monday, July 20 at 6:30.

1989, 255 minutes, 35mm.
In the magisterial ROUTE ONE/USA, Kramer and his long-time friend and alter-ego Paul McIsaac travel along the East Coast of the U.S. Through this extraordinary piece, Kramer attempts a film portrait of “a people, but not the masses”, focusing on particular people in particular circumstances to get beyond generalizations about “the American public”.
“Route 1 is a highway that runs from Canada to Key West, Florida, along the east coast of the USA. In 1936, it was the most traveled roadway in the world. In 1988, it runs beside super highways and through suburbs, a thin stretch of asphalt cutting through all the old dreams of a nation. But as the Doctor and I went down that road for five months, I had the impression that we were not driving through the past at all, but through a much more honest and dynamic revelation of the present. We were in the shadows of highways and great glass downtown centers, we were far from the movie images, we seemed to be on the edge and slipping fast into obscurity, but we were really in the present, surrounded by big trouble and hard times.” –Robert Kramer
–Sunday, July 19 at 6:30 and Wednesday, July 22 at 7:00.

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2022: I publish a weeklyish email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca., where I practiced with Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison and was involved in various pro-ecology and social justice activist activities.

One thought on “NYC – The films of ROBERT KRAMER retrospective begins tonight at Anthology

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