| 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 isnít 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.
In the 1960ís he made his mark as the great filmmaker of the American radical left whose first films painted a portrait of a generation of militants marked by their opposition to the war in Vietnam (In The Country, The Edge, and Ice). He was a founder and prime mover of Newsreel (a national collective of potitical filmmakers). He has traveled to Latin America, North Vietnam in the middle of the war (Peopleís War), then in Portugal after the April Revolution (Scenes from the Class Struggle in Portugal, and Gestos e Fragmentos), and in post-independence Angola. He never stopped reflecting in his films on the 'heart of darkness' of the West, or on the lives of those who rebelled against it in his youth.
Recognized as a filmmaker of the first magnitude in America by Jonas Mekas and in Europe by 'new cinema' circles, Kramer circulated from the beginning in a realm of discovery as far away from Hollywood as it was from underground and experimental film. In his thirty years of total independence, he made film his instrument for discovery and used it to reflect on personal and collective experience. By mixing document and fiction, he invented an artistic form that is original, malleable, and free, and is marked by a polyphonic crossing of voices and characters (more than fifty in Milestones) and by the immediate presence of the filmmaker as witness or conversation partner. 'The man with the movie camera', Kramer is, in turn, the first 'character' of his works. This is the reason why - in addition to the larger or even monumental films - the 'minor' films are important - the videos, the home movies, the video letters, the works done on commission and each time reinvented, as well as the most radical borderline experiences (Notre Nazi, Berlin 10/90, and Ghosts of Electricity).
Kramer is the most nomadic American filmmaker. He was discovered in Europe and became, in turn, a 'European' director. In France he was recognized with the highest award in the arts, the Legion of Honor. Even in Europe, he moved to seek the edges of the continent (Walk the Walk).
He can also be acknowledged as the American filmmaker who more than any other has restored his countryís historical and geographical sense, the epic breath and pulsation of the continent, the dissolving ties of the community and the utopia of a new 'citizenship'. This happens in those two grandiose crossings of America that are separated by fifteen years, Milestones and Route One USA, two strongholds of Kramerís work around which so many other films are placed as they engage in a sort of uninterrupted dialogue with America.
Before making films Kramer set off to work as a reporter in Latin America, though the trip was cut short by the death of his father. Then worked with Peter Gessner on 'FALN', a film on the guerilla movement in Venezuela. In 1966, he joined with Norman Fruchter, Robert Machover, and Peter Gessner to start Alpha 60 (aka: Blue Van Films), and later with other political filmmakers were central to forming Newsreel. His Newsreel experience lasted from 1967 to 1971, during which about sixty short, and middle-length films were produced - documentaries, films of struggle, and agit-prop films.
In the early 1980ís he moved to Europe, where it was easier to obtain funding for his work.
The Robert Kramer Retrospective at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater has been organized by the Pioneer, friends and family of Robert Kramer, and Fabiano Canosa.