utorak, 8. prosinca 2015.

Bruce Baillie - Mass for the Dakota Sioux (1963–64)

Jedan od onih svetaca avangardno-metafizičkog filma.


Bruce Baillie is one of the great figures in American avant-garde filmmaking. Since 1960, he has produced a body of films unsurpassed for their lyrical sensuality, expressive hone sty and formal inventiveness. An artist and film visionary, Baillie founded Canyon Cinema in collaboration with Chick Strand in 1961, and influenced generations of filmmakers and experimental artists, ranging from George Lucas to Jennifer Reeves to Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Two nights of rarely projected, beautiful 16mm films celebrate Baillie’s artistry with vintage prints and the premiere of a previously unreleased work. Sunday’s screening features Here I Am (1962), Tung (1966), All My Life (1966), Castro Street (1966), Valentin de las Sierras (1968), Little Girl (1966, premiere, preserved by the Academy Film Archive), and others. Monday’s program includes Quick Billy (1970, 60 min.), an ode to both Eastern philosophy and “horse operas,” plus other rare, later films. - http://www.redcat.org/event/bruce-baillie

A METAPHYSICAL POET of film’s postwar avant-garde, Bruce Baillie fuses inner and outer space through a sensuous manipulation of photographic surfaces. In Castro Street (1966), images of chuffing trains peel off from physical reality like shed skins, remarried in carefully fluid superimpositions, and set to a soundscape that combines machine noises with natural murmurs. Juxtaposing rich 16-mm color stock with high-contrast black-and-white lends a ghostly air to the massive engines, occasionally punctuated by makeshift iris mattes created by Baillie’s hands cupping his camera’s lens. He achieves a similarly oneiric quality in Mass for the Dakota Sioux (1963–64), again deploying deft multilayering, this time of eerily wordless city life alternated with observational moments that quiver on the edge of symbolism: A bearded biker charging across the Bay Bridge evokes fantasies of lost prairie warriors. A dreamlike synesthesia emerges more strongly in Tung (1966), a brief, ecstatic portrait of a female dancer set against a shifting pool of distorted organic colors.
Calling these lyric late-Beat films proto-psychedelic wouldn’t be far off. Baillie contributed significantly to the emergence of a distinctly West Coast sensibility in American experimental cinema of the 1960s and ’70s, one more unabashedly spiritual and lush than the scene’s frenetic New York contemporaries. He helped establish the long-standing Bay Area distributor Canyon Cinema and inspired a younger generation of filmmakers like Will Hindle and Scott Bartlett. Today, Jennifer Reeves and others cite his influence.
Now Baillie has made Castro Street, Mass, and Tung available on a self-published, limited-edition DVD, the first volume of a planned three. Baillie reports that their production was aided by a grant from one of George Lucas’s charitable foundations—and not coincidentally. Lucas first became interested in filmmaking by attending Baillie’s early Canyon Cinema screenings as a teenager. The disk contains two other films: All My Life (1966), an enigmatically minimal one-shot set to the song by Ella Fitzgerald, and Valentin de las Sierras (1968), a quasi-ethnographic portrait of rural Mexico told through intimate close-ups of hands, faces, tools, and other details, Baillie’s camera searching physical surfaces to elicit a more immaterial experience.
A collection of Bruce Baillie’s films has been released as a limited-edition DVD. For more details, click here.Ed Halter

A number of recent films, such as The Great Beauty, Gravity, The Grandmaster, Upstream Color and Spring Breakers, have gone quite some distance in setting plot aside in order to exemplify what the camera can do to describe the sumptuousness of the world's surfaces. If those purely painterly pleasures have any capacity to thrill you, you owe it to yourself to see the films of Bruce Baillie, the subject of a screening Thursday night at Third Man Records as part of its series The Light and Sound Machine.
It's a different world than it was even as recently as 10 years ago. Where avant-garde cinema was once hopelessly inaccessible (and thus mischaracterized as "elitist" and "obscure"), one can now get to a lot of the canonical works through DVD, streaming services, Vimeo and YouTube. While this can never compare with the vibrancy of 16mm celluloid (as the LSM is screening Baillie on Thursday), at least the curious can familiarize themselves with this critical part of film history. Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage or Kenneth Anger will never be household names, but they are now as well-known as Bresson, Fassbinder or Pasolini.
Bruce Baillie is another matter, even though he is every inch the equal of the aforementioned masters. An axiom of the San Francisco experimental-film scene, Baillie was one of the original founders of both the Canyon Cinema distribution cooperative and the screening series that evolved into the San Francisco Cinematheque. He has influenced the lyrical cine-poets as well as the structural formalists, the hippies and the critical leftists, without ever producing imitators or disciples. Like Brakhage, Baillie generated his own form of cinematic meaning.
At the same time, Baillie seems to devise new working methods and stylistic textures with each and every film, which has paradoxically made him a victim of his own originality. Inasmuch as Baillie has a signature style, it has to do less with any particular technique — associative editing, sound / image relations, superimpositions, etc. — and more to do with a tactile engagement with the objects before his camera, a loving, caressing gaze. He certainly employs many formal devices like those listed above, creating visions that only cinema can provide. But he does so only in response to the material at hand. The heart of Baillie's film work, its consistent thread, is attentiveness to beauty's ability to break through the dour veil of the mundane.
We see this explicitly in Baillie's most famous film, "Castro Street" (1966), composed of two unbroken tracking shots moving in opposite directions along opposite sides of the titular street in Richmond, Calif. As Baillie moves alongside a rail yard and a Chevron refinery, we glimpse natural forms (weeds, clouds, sunbeams) in a mechanized setting, along with the human and mechanical traces of heavy industry. The two colliding views (one color, one black-and-white) describe new, impossible forms, intersecting and Rorschaching, while at the same time imbuing the working men caught by Baillie's camera/gaze with an almost feminine aesthetic potency, shining forth in brilliant crimsons and cobalt blues. The audio track is a musique concrete cacophony of train noise, half-heard brakemen's orders, the Young Rascals on the radio. It's an ordinary day, transfigured.
Or consider one of Baillie's earliest films, "Here I Am" (1962), made when he was undertaking a nonfiction newsreel program for Canyon Cinema. It is a documentary portrait of a school in Oakland for children who had experienced abuse or neglect. Baillie stands at a remove, with the intention of explaining nothing. Instead, he observes individual children at play, sharing brief moments of cooperation and tenderness. There is no voiceover, no rhetorical editing. Baillie's method is to let the camera assist in generating moments of fleeting radiance, when these introverted young people emerge from their bureaucratic circumstance and become free beings.
Likewise, Baillie's "Valentin de las Sierras" (1971) is a film that adopts what the Western viewer may expect to be an "ethnographic" subject (a man and his family in Jalisco, Mexico) and refutes all formal expectation that accompanies the anthropological gaze. Through light and shadow, extreme close-ups on eyes, hands and other body fragments, the animals, the labor and the road, Baillie produces a work of genuine portraiture. Every tiny piece of "Valentin" is so isolated from a larger context, so radically specific in its color, shape, and framing, that no grand knowledge can be generalized from it.
One of Baillie's most straightforward films is also his best. "All My Life" (1966) perhaps best reflects the filmmaker's uncanny ability to home in on the poetic simplicity of the world's interstices and successfully transmit them to his viewership. The film is a mere three minutes long. It is a single take, consisting of a right-to-left tracking shot along an old picket fence. The daylight sky is a textbook blue; there are roses growing along the fence. The film is synced to Ella Fitzgerald's song "All My Life," as sincere a love song as anyone has ever penned. "All My Life" seems to slowly unwind before the viewer, like the scroll in a player piano.
The final film on the LSM program, "Quick Billy" (1970), is one of Baillie's longest and most complex, set in four distinct movements. As if intuitively plunging into the tumultuous conceptual landscape of late '60s/early '70s avant-garde film, Baillie opens "Quick Billy" with pure, searing light, which, it soon becomes apparent, is the sun itself. Like the poetic/spiritual tradition of cine-visionaries Brakhage and Anger, Baillie overwhelms us with the self-destructive quest for enlightenment; but like the structural-materialists, so concerned with the film medium itself — think Hollis Frampton or Michael Snow — Baillie also gives us pure light on film, absolute particles on screen.
I won't spoil "Quick Billy's" many surprises, except to say that the four parts are not intended to fit together. Rather, they point to the multiple possibilities that the cinema can offer: experimentation, desire, myth — and perhaps finally, a mix of confusion and astonishment. -

Bruce Baillie – Quick Billy (1971)
First, the long awaited release of Bruce Baillie’s 1971 Masterpiece with a capital M (the first five minutes will make your head spin) Quick Billy. This third release is available through Canyon Cinema , $50 for home use and $300 for institutional use. An immense amount of sacrifice and effort went into the creation of this DVD, so sincere gratitude is owed to many (especially Baillie himself and John Carlson, who aided with the transfer and color coding). The beauty of the film is difficult to put into words, but as Bruce Elder says of the film:
“One masterwork in the cinema that depicts the process by which its maker attempts to recover the true self — or, if not the true self, an authentic self that enters into uncorrupting relations with the world beyond it — is Bruce Baillie’s ‘Quick Billy (1970). Here an attack on the body, a bout with yellow fever, brings Baillie to confront his mortality. This confrontation brings him to revise his understanding of himself, his family, his personal history, and his goals. ‘Quick Billy’ tells the tale of his falling ill, of his becoming delirious and delusional and experiencing memories of his former self, of his transformation, and of his rebirth as authentic individual. While Baillie patter the film on the ‘Bardo Thodol (The Tibetan Book of the Dead)’, the matrix from which ‘Quick Billy’ arises is really Gnosticism. Like the similarly Gnostic/Eleusian ‘Cantos’ of Ezra Pound, ‘Quick Billy’ is a tale of going into the underworld, experiencing terror, undergoing transformation, and being reborn. The agency that brings on the transformation in both cases is the experience of light.”
– (Bruce Elder in ‘A Body of Vision’)

Bruce Baillie's rarely screened Quixote (1965) stands alongside other synoptic 60s masterpieces such as Stan Brakhage's The Art of Vision and Peter Kubelka's Unsere Afrikareise, which use dense collages of diverse images in an attempt to make sense of a troubling world. In Quixote wild horses and a basketball game are part of a cross-country trip that ends with an antiwar demonstration in Manhattan. Baillie says he's depicting our culture as one of conquest, but his film's greatness lies not in its social analysis, which can seem as simpleminded as equating businessmen with pigs. Rather it's in the way his superimposed and intercut images float almost weightlessly in space, creating a hypnotic sense of displacement that lets us see beyond aggression. Bruce Conner's strangely meditative Crossroads (1976) makes a similar point with multiple views of a 1946 A-bomb test. 81 min. 16mm. -


(Bruce Baillie, 1966)
One of Baillie's sensuous tone poems, Tung is a portrait of a friend; sandy skin and flaxen hair in the early-morning light. -Scott MacDonald...

Mr. Hayashi

(Bruce Baillie, 1961)
One of several "Canyon CinemaNews" reels that Baillie made in the early to mid 1960s, the film Mr. Hayashi has "an immediate basis in necessity" as Baillie described, and is a...

All My Life

(Bruce Baillie, 1966)
"Caspar, California; old fence with red roses." -BB...

Castro Street

(Bruce Baillie, 10 min)
An extraordinary technical achievement and a poetic masterpiece, Castro Street is a layered portrait of the Standard Oil Refinery in Richmond, California which Baillie describes as "coming of consciousness". "I wanted...

To Parsifal

(Bruce Baillie, 1963)
Baillie's tribute to Wagner and the myth of the Holy Grail and the Parsifalian hero. Various scenes, first in the Pacific, mainly in the fog (including passing under the San...

Mass for the Dakota Sioux

(Bruce Baillie, 1964)
A film Mass, dedicated to nobility and excellence. The film begins with a short introduction - "No chance for me to live, Mother, you might as well mourn." Sitting Bull,...

Here I Am

(Bruce Baillie, 1962)
One of Baillie's earliest films, Here I Am is an extraordinary portrait of children at the East Bay Activity Center, a school in Oakland, California started in the 1950s to...


(Bruce Baillie, 1965)
"One-year journey through the land of incessant progress, researching those sources which have given rise twenty years later to the essential question of survival." -BB The bearded figure at the...

Valentin de las Sierras

(Bruce Baillie, 1967)
"This ten minute portrait of lives lived in rare air and under sunlight of liquid gold is, simply put, one of the most beautiful films ever made." –Chuck Stephens "In...

Yellow Horse

(Bruce Baillie, 1965)
"Cycle scrambles poem. Bass solo by Pat Smith, LA". - BB...


(Bruce Baillie, 1966)
By the "Canyon Cinema Documentary Film Unit" - (Paul Tulley, Bruce Baillie, etc). Made in Spring, '66 for a small community of Indian people near Laytonville, California....

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