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Robert Kramer’s Milestones

Robert Kramer and John Douglas, Milestones, 1975, still from a black-and-white and color film in 16 mm, 195 minutes.

DESCRIBING MILESTONES, his epic dirge from 1975 on the failed dreams of ’60s radicals, the late expatriate American director Robert Kramer broke his film down into a series of mystical-sounding components: “Fire-Water-Air-Earth-People.” Though it may ring as grandiose, this multihyphenate accurately encompasses the mood and registers the magnitude of the seismic shift revealed in this beautifully shot (on 16 mm) hybrid of documentary footage and staged reenactments. The film chronicles the painful process through which the New Left’s collective action and utopian hopes gave way to the Me Decade’s enraged narcissism.

Like many of Kramer’s movies, Milestones, codirected and cowritten with John Douglas, is a semifictionalized account of the experiences of the filmmaker’s friends, stalwart members of the “movement.” (A few characters in Milestones are never identified, many use their

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