In this week’s Voice, your friend and mine Nick Pinkerton talks to the former wife and partner of the late David C. Stone, who’s honored with a retrospective at Anthology Film Archives beginning tonight with an encore screening of Adolfas Mekas’s Hallelujah the Hills, which Stone produced; she recalls their ground-level fundraising for independent films, and censor-board battles while running an influential arthouse in London.
One film from the series in particular exemplifies Stone’s guerrilla filmmaking tactics and progressive politics: Robert Kramer’s Ice, from 1969, which he produced, and which screens at Anthology every couple of years to a crowd eager to finally see the film from which the above still originates. Which, given present circumstances, should be fairly large this Sunday and the Monday following.
Ice, which I saw and wrote about a couple of years ago during Anthology’s Kramer retrospective, is set in a near-future America of state ID cards and a Mexican invasion, and concerns a rebellion led by a few interconnected cells of student radicals, who spout much matter-of-fact Marxist rhetoric.
The film was made on the fly during a white-flight NYC winter, and the poured-concrete edifices, shot in newsreely black-and-white, uncannily evoke a paranoid sense of the largely offscreen dystopic American government—the film could be called Robert Moses’s Alphaville. It was shot on the fly, with a largely amateur cast in found and scrounged locations—guerrilla filmmaking for a guerrilla movie, a rigorous formal purity to link the film with the similar works of Nagisa Oshima (or the less reputable Koji Wakamatsu, who snuck leftist rhetoric into softcore porno); it also imparts a Warholian hangout vibe.
There’s no human microphone, but the distended scenes of radical planning meetings get at the logistics, principles, and painstaking crosstalk of social protest movements in a way that’s rarely captured on film; that some of the weapons (political props?) come from a radical theater troupe recalls Rivette’s investigations into the conspiracies of open-ended experimental theater, and reminds us, as does Occupy Wall Street, of the essential performative—perhaps even propagandistic—nature of social protest.