Ice, an Underground Marxist Fantasy of Guerilla Warfare in 60s New York

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07/17/2009 10:14 AM |

2356/1247793712-ice.jpgMaybe the closest American cinema came to the formal and political militancy of France and Japan’s class of ‘68, Robert Kramer’s Ice is as guerilla as the radical cells that constitute it: in hairsplitting long takes, enthusiastic young amateurs — playing more or less versions of their more or less academic, posing or burnt-out selves — talk out the dialectics logistics of open rebellion, in whosever apartments Kramer and they could find, and sneakily appropriate streets where they’re not supposed to be for (political) action (scenes). Politics is theater, film politics: an Artaudian experimental group smuggles guns, shows of force are performances, literally captive audiences are reeducated via newsreels (also intercut with the action, exhorting us to take up arms).

Ice could also be called Robert Moses’s Alphaville: poured-concrete housing projects, shot from low angles in verité-grained b&w during a grim white-flight winter, are so dystopic that that the alternative-universe fascist-imperialist American government — almost entirely offscreen and alluded to through mentions of their ID check programs and Mexican invasion — comes off as more than mere post-hippie paranoia.

Some unholy combination of Out 1, Koji Wakamatsu, La Chinoise and The Man Who Left His Will on Film, Ice plays tomorrow night and Monday night at Anthology Film Archives, as part of their Robert Kramer retro, starting tonight.