… how have you come about seeing them?
That is to say: are there any means that you know of/recommend for seeing his work? I know some of his work is available in France, with Ice and Milestones soon to be available via French DVD, but I was just wondering if there were any other means of acquiring his work beyond this.
I found out about Kramer through Ray Carney’s constant praise of him. Route One USA is pretty astounding, I’ve also seen Ice but I can’t remember what I thought of it.
There’s one torrent site that has most of them available. But torrents are terrible things that are bad, bad, bad so I’m afraid you’re screwed.
Now and then his works come up at art-house cinemas and/or documentary festivals. Last year Anthology Film Archive in NYC had at least 3 of his films, and this summer has a screening of “Ice.” This summer BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) has a themed series that happens to include “Milestones.” If you live near a good independent cinema, a museum with a film collection, and/or a university with a film dept. that hosts public screenings, try suggesting Kramer to the programmer / curators. I’ve no info on DVDs, unfortunately. Best of luck!
Kramer’s worth seeing as his films represent a certain period in the American left — particularly “Ice.” I find his lack of humor a major minus.
But “Route One USA” doesn’t lack humor, many of the scenes with Doc involved display a wonderful irony. Though Kramer seemed be somehow lost when the character Doc abandoned the project, and his observations started to lack irony, it seems that he needed the fictional character combined with the authentic settings in order to develop a detached and more humouros point of view.
Milestones and Ice come will be available from Amazon.fr on September 7. Both films are definitely dramas but they have a light touch and are not super serious in any way.
Milestones is unsurpassed as far as the films I’ve seen. Fans of Altman’s Nashville might be interested. Both films came out in 1975 and feature over 25 different characters but Milestones is far more interesting. Ice is brilliant as well. It sounds like a dry polemic on paper but it’s really about the way personalities form and transforms politics. Kramer was a genius who is long overdue for greater recognition.
“Milestones” is a valiant attempt to capture the post -May 68 mood. But the film that REALLY does that is Rivette’s “Out 1”
I love Out 1 and Milestones and would hate to pit them against one another, but if I did Milestones would probably when for me. I will, of course, never be able to see either film in the same context that you and others who lived during that period did, but I have my own reasons for believing that, were I to make it a contest, Milestones would come out on top.
Now that Milestones is coming out we can only hope Out 1 is right behind it.
Among the films I’ve seen…ICE, MILESTONES, ROUTE 1…he is clearly a Major Talent. As David E. says his works lack humour but then so does Herman Melville.
There is humor in the scenes with the musician in Milestones and also in the conversations with former revolutionaries, it’s just not of the laugh out loud variety.
Bit harsh on Melville Arthur! I read Moby Dick a few months back and was surprised to find so much subtle humour embedded into the work after hearing some negative things about it.
He may have had an almost fetishistic interest in whales, but I’m not going to hold that against him.
I just ordered Ice, Milestones, Walk the Walk and Doc’s Kingdom from amazon.fr
Can’t wait to see them
I will be ordering them on Friday. Friday cannot come soon enough!
I wonder if any of these films are available anywhere:
1. FALN (1965)
2. In The Country (1966)
4. People’s War (1969)
8. Guns (1980)
9. Un Grand Jour En France: La Naissance aka Birth (1981)
10. À toute allure aka As Fast As You Can (1982)
11. La Peur aka The Fear (1983)
12. Sarkis at Woodrow Wilson – Musee d’Art Moderne (1984)
14. Diesel (1985)
15. Un plan d’enfer aka A Plan of Hell (1986)
16. X-Country (1987)
20. Maquette [Brouillon de film] aka Scale Model [Draft Film] (1990)
22. Sous le vent aka Leeward (1991)
23. Series of Video Letters: Steve Dwoskin (1991)
24. Ecrire contre l’oubli aka Writing Against Forgetting (1991)
25. La Roue aka The Wheel: Greg Lemond – Andrew Hampsten (1992)
28. Le Manteau aka The Mantle (1996)
29. Ghosts of Electricity (1997)
30. Say Koms Sa (1998)
I just bought copies of “Milestones”/“Ice” and “Route One USA” in Paris, and they’re all amazing, but “Milestones” struck me as some sort of lost masterpiece. But not totally lost: I began loving it before I ever saw the film, through a Serge Daney critic from the 70’s, which is available in his book “La Rampe”. And it’s curious to see someone mentioning Altman’s film in the light of Kramer’s. This is what Daney has to say about their similarities:
“(…) Much more than a documentary about the reflux of North American’s left or an invitation to total love, Kramer and Douglas’ film answers to this question: what is a tribe made of? And can this tribe be constituted of the images created by itself? A question made by the authors, humorlessly, question that crosses us as well, without realizing that, regarding America, it’s an old question. Segregation (the tribe, the guetto) is the truth of America, the shadow its democrat ideology holds, the fertilizer from which came, with no discintion, Milestones, Thoureau, the Manson Family, the Weathermen and the Jesus People.
Therefore is necessary to say that Milestones is the anti-Nashville, because what is precious and disturbing in Kramer and Douglas’ film is that they no longer know what they say about the characters; but from the very little they do know, they want to weave a shield and set directions to a future. Comparing, the advance of the artist-witness-of-his-time Robert Altman over his despicable Southern zoo, Nashvile, it tranquilizes us. We: the left, the well-thinker extreme-left, from Paris or New York."
(poorly translated from the Portuguese source I have in hand, sorry)
Therefore is necessary to say that Milestones is the anti-Nashville, because what is precious and disturbing in Kramer and Douglas’ film is that they no longer know what they say about the characters; but from the very little they do know, they want to weave a shield and set directions to a future. Comparing, the advance of the artist-witness-of-his-time Robert Altman over his despicable Southern zoo, Nashvile, it tranquilizes us. We: the left, the well-thinker extreme-left, from Paris or New York
This is what’s wrong with the so-called “film canon.” As far as I know, when it comes to western literature, there is no absolute masterpiece that is unknown the way Kramer’s Milestones is for many film lovers or even film professors! You can love film an d live your whole life believing that a man named Robert created the ultimate statement about the U.S. in 1975, and that the film was Nashville, when in fact the Robert who did this was Kramer and the film was Milestones.
Nashville has it’s charms but it’s no where near as complex and beautiful (beauty that comes from truth) as Milestones. This is probably going to be my favorite film for some time, although it really shares that position with 100 others. It’s my default answer for those who ask for such a ridiculous judgement.
Milestones and Ice were screened in 35mm prints at The Ibrahim Theater @ International House Philadelphia about two years ago.
Robert Kramer—who, according to Vincent Canby of the New York Times, “seems incapable of shooting a scene, framing a shot or catching a line of dialogue that isn’t loaded with levels of information one usually finds only in the best, most spare poetry”—died unexpectedly in France this past November at the age of sixty.
He left a singular body of work—as far from Hollywood as it was from underground or experimental films—that eventually, he felt, would “make up one long film . . . one ‘story’ in a continual process of becoming.” A committed leftist who emerged radicalized from his studies in philosophy and Western European history at Swarthmore and Stanford, he worked as a reporter in Latin America and organized a community project in a black neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, before founding the Newsreel movement, an underground media collective which made some sixty documentaries and short films about radical political subjects and the antiwar movement between 1967 and 1971. Kramer made his mark in the 1960s as the great filmmaker of the American radical left with films like The Edge and Ice.
Embraced by the European intelligentsia, he eventually moved to Paris in the early 1980s, where he continued to produce fictionalized and documentary films on a range of subjects from Portugal’s April Revolution and post-independence Angola to the Tour de France—all the while maintaining his “uninterrupted dialogue with America.” Our series offers the opportunity to sample a range of Kramer’s rarely screened work and to pay tribute to this unique cinematic personality.
Harvard Film Archive