Courtisane festival, notes on cinema, 23nd edition, 27 - 31 March 2024
Twenty years after Doc first appears in Kramer’s film Ice, as the leader of a mythical underground revolutionary organisation played by Paul McIsaac, his character returns here as a disillusioned former activist who practices medicine as a way to stay true to his beliefs. After a stint in Africa, he ended up in Lisbon, where he divides his time between the local hospital and his lonely cottage on the docks. “Go home,” says the local café owner (played by filmmaker João César Monteiro). But Doc no longer knows a home. His past catches up with him when his son (a young Vincent Gallo) visits him from the US. A prelude to Route One/USA that draws inspiration from one of the filmmaker’s favourite books, Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, and reverts back to some of Kramer’s main themes: “the US, a home, a homeland, of which you are inevitably a part and of which you are forever outside.”
“I am very attached to the idea of geography. Most often, for me, places come before people. Starting with Doc’s Kingdom, what was an important formal idea was the idea of the trajet, a very beautiful word that doesn’t exist in English. It was this idea of filming bodies moving through spaces that interested me. I never liked travellings, very concretely: I couldn’t stand the idea of placing the rails. It seemed to me that it was an incredible pain to lay fifty meters of rails in order to accompany a character. The question was also: how to move in a space in a reasonable length of time, which does not become unbearable?”
A video letter addressed to Kramer’s fellow traveller and accomplice, Paul McIsaac, aka Doc, the main character in Doc’s Kingdom and Route One/USA. This candid letter, written, filmed and composed after the editing of Route One/USA, expresses all the strength and density of a long-term friendship that would last.
“I’ve always been frightened of what you might call the Jonas Mekas syndrome, which means: ‘I totally embrace my subjectivity’. I had decided to go to the very end, I was going to say everything. Show everything, for once. And then, there’s every way to not even show what you thought you were going to show. I really wanted to reach another level. I wanted to do this by working twentyfour hours a day. You could also call it the Chris Marker syndrome. I was going to plunge into it completely. I wasn’t going to answer the phone, go home, and I’d see what would happen. What did happen is Dear Doc.”