Saturday, December 25, 2010
Christmas was an altogether more magical time when I was younger. In the days before the VCR and satellite, Christmas was a glorious time for TV, when networks would roll out the big premieres. Nowadays the Harry Potter series is firmly established as the staple Christmas movie, but when I was growing up in the 80's, it was Star Wars. I was also a big Star Wars Toys kid and every Christmas I would a get Star Wars vehicle. My pride and joy was Han Solo's Millennium Falcon. My Dad still likes to remind me how much money he paid for it back in the day, and how much all my Star Wars toys would be worth today had I not swept them all up and passed them on to younger relatives. I gotta say I do wish I kept them now...
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Genital torture as terrorist deterrent in Ice
Ice's running time of two hours might seem excessive for a political thriller, but it's modest in comparison with Kramer's 1975 epic Milestones, which runs about 3 hours 20min. The film is essentially a huge patchwork of various people - including a film maker, an anti-war activist released from prison, a troubled Vietnam vet, a blind potter, a young woman preparing to have a baby - all working out their lives and problems of living in America in the 70's against the backdrop of the Vietnam conflict. Like Ice, Milestones is a sort of "fictionalized" (and scripted) documentary but some 5 years on from Ice, Kramer's direction has loosened up and the film has some stylish flourishes - Kramer uses a wide angle lens in some sequences (lending a strange exaggerated depth of field), and the director employs some Nouvelle Vague-ish licks - jump-cuts, over-lapping dialogue, and a free sense of editing, with Kramer dropping in newsreel footage and photo montages of slave trade documents, tenement poverty and the brutal, shameful treatment of blacks and Native Americans in the United States. Two sequences standout amidst this huge tapestry - an astonishing, surreal nightmare, and an unflinching child birth sequence. Epic in form, epic in content, Milestones remains a key work of American Independent Cinema.
Milestones and Ice are available as a 2-disc French DVD courtesy of Capricci. Both films are presented with optional removable subtitles (in French or Spanish). The full-frame transfers of both films are not without their problems. Ice is the worst of the two. The transfer itself is fine, but the print used is well worn, with lots of debris, lines, tears and scratches. On the plus side, the image is bright, has good contrast and detail is sharp. By no means, a Criterion remaster, but nevertheless a perfectly acceptable transfer considering the rarity of the film. Milestones which was shot in color and is the better of the two, transfer wise, with less damage, evidently sourced from a good 16mm print (less troublesome than the one used for Ice) and featuring strong detail and good color. Audio for both films is fine, each of the films having a minimal amount of music anyhow. Neither film contains any extras. Capricci's DVD set comes in a fold-out cardboard sleeve, with both discs housed separately along side some stills from both films. Highly recommended !
No limits, no boundaries - an ex con comes to terms with freedom in Milestones
Capricci's DVD set, with fold out panels
Robert Kramer is well represented on French DVD. In addition to the Milestones / Ice DVD, there are DVDs of Cities of the Plain (his final film, from 2001), a double-bill DVD featuring Doc's Kingdom / Walk the Walk ('87/'96) and a 3-disc edition of Kramer's long-form road movie masterpiece Route One USA (1989). Unfortunately Doc's Kingdom / Walk the Walk have hard coded subtitles, and the French language Cities of the Plain has no English subs. Thankfully Route One USA is a superb set, with an excellent transfer and extras, and featuring removable subs. The 4-hour film spread over 2 discs, the third disc being an audio CD of the music from the film.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Some pics from the book