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"Endlessly fascinating. An extraordinary, fluidly shaped mosaic of the fragmented pockets of American life that together compose the mainstream."—The New York Times
In the film, renegade director Robert Kramer joins Doc (Paul McIsaac) in a trip from the Canadian border to the tip of Florida. The film has been newly digitized and restored with the support of the Centre National du Cinema (CNC).
In 1988, after years living abroad, renegade filmmaker Robert Kramer returns. "Back," he emphasizes. Not "home." To try to understand the country as it is, he decides to travel the entire length of Route 1, from the Canadian border to Key West, filming all the way. His companion on the trip is Doc—ostensibly Kramer's friend, a brooding physician back after a harrowing decade working in Africa. But in fact, he's a fictional character played by actor Paul McIsaac, a compassionate man who readily engages those he meets, from business owners, to factory workers and to army recruits.
For a road movie, ROUTE ONE/USA features few shots of the open road itself. Instead, we are treated to a series of stops along the way—an Indian reserve in Maine, Walden Pond, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, a Georgia diner, Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter, and evangelical churches that preach the "truth" about the anti-apartheid movement and the dangers of Disney. There are plenty of characters along the way too, and appearances by televangelist Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson, as they campaign for president.
It's not just the people who make the film though. Kramer has an extraordinary eye for people, patterns, and industrial processes (you'll never look at Monopoly or tinned sardines the same way again), and his visuals shine through in this beautifully restored edition.
Though shot decades ago, ROUTE ONE/USA feels remarkably contemporary in its portrayal of many of the racial, social, and economic challenges America continues to face.