Robert Kramer Retrospective [1999–2000]

Cities of the Plain

Cités de la Plaine
- 1999–2000 / France / French / Color / 110 min / 35mm

Director, Photography: Robert Kramer Editing: Robert Kramer, Rémi Hiernaux
Music: Barre Phillips Sounds: Julien Cloquet, Keja Ho Kramer
Lighting: Richard Copans
Cast: Ben, Amelie Desrumaux, Bernard Trolet, Nathalie Sarles, and others
Producer, Production Companies: Richard Copans (Les Films d’Ici), François Hers, Katia Riccaboni (La Fondation de France), Alin Fleischer, Martine Viollet (Le Fresnoy, Studio national des arts contemporains), Claude Guisard, Sylvie Blum (INA), Christian Lamarche, Catherine Droubaix (CCRAV), and others
Source: Les Films d’Ici

In Northern France, a blind man, Ben, looks back at his life. He was an immigrant who had managed to set up a successful business in the face of many setbacks, had married a French woman who bore him a child. But what these successes did really mean for him? Back in Algeria, his mother’s throat was cut. His wife who could not stand his over-masculine temper left him. He ended up losing everything, even his sight. Casting three different actors as Ben now and in his past, the film closely intertwines his three time periods and lives. Kramer shot the film in digital video, thinking to blow it up into 35 mm print to create a particular visual texture. The flexibility of the small camera allowed him to follow Ben’s stories as a guiding thread of the film’s narrative while capturing the transformation of Europe as the reality of being “here” “now,” by moving freely from his inner meditation to the world around him, from his past to whom he has became now. The film was shot entirely in Roubaix in the north of France, close to where he had taught at a local film school since 1998. Barely finishing his editing, Kramer suddenly fell ill and soon became unconscious, never to return. Robert Kramer died in November 1999.

• Robert Kramer Retrospective | FALN | In the Country | The Edge | Ice | People’s War | Milestones | Scenes from the Class Struggle in Portugal | Guns | A Great Day in France / Birth | As Fast as You Can | Fear | Doc’s Kingdom | Route One / USA | Dear Doc | Berlin 10/90 | Video Letters: Robert Kramer and Stephen Dwoskin | Leeward | Point de départ / Starting Place | Walk the Walk | The Coat | Ghosts of Electricity | SayKomSa | Cities of the Plain | Against Forgetting