Still Life (1966) by Bruce Baillie
Image credit: Still Life (1966) by Bruce Baillie
San Francisco Cinematheque returns to public screenings, joining forces with sister org Canyon Cinema as they inaugurate Canyon at the Roxie, a monthly series of monographic screenings featuring Bay Area filmmakers past and present!
This inaugural edition of Canyon at the Roxie is dedicated to Cinematheque’s and Canyon’s founding filmmaker, Bruce Baillie (1931-2020), who brought to life exceptional works of film art and a thriving cinema counterculture. Beginning in the late 1950s, Baillie created a vagabond, romantic, first-person filmmaking style that continues to enchant and influence new generations drawn to the artistic possibilities of the 16mm film medium. Beginning with a visit to the filmmaker’s editing bench and a few words from Dr. Bish himself, this memorial screening focuses attention on some of Baillie’s lesser-known lyrical films (Little Girl, Still Life) and Canyon Newsreels (Termination), culminating with two of his distinctly different masterpieces: the expansive, densely-layered Quixote and the compact, elegant All My Life.
A wandering poet, Bruce Baillie was also an inveterate community builder. From the ambitious yet unassuming 1961 screenings presented by Baillie and friends in the rural East Bay community of Canyon, California emerged two essential institutions of American independent filmmaking: San Francisco Cinematheque and the Canyon Cinema Co-op. In addition to marking the 60th anniversary of these sister organizations, this program coincides with the release of Canyon’s newest publication. Dear Folks: Notes and Letters from Bruce Baillie collects some of Baillie’s many dispatches to and about Canyon Cinema, ranging from a 1962 announcement co-signed with Chick Strand to voicemail messages left on Canyon’s office answering machine in the last years of his life. The bulk of this material derives from the Canyon Cinemanews, which began in 1962 as a newsletter to solicit and circulate “fugitive information” related to a fledgling independent film movement. Years before Canyon was formally organized as a distribution cooperative, the lively pages of the Cinemanews demonstrated that there was such a community of filmmakers to be incorporated. (Canyon Cinema)
Copies of Dear Folks: Notes and Letters from Bruce Baillie will be available at the screening for purchase at a special discount price. The publication can also be purchased in Cinematheque’s online store.
Introduction to the Holy Scrolls (1998) by Bruce Baillie; video, color, sound, 10 minutes, exhibition file from Canyon Cinema
Bruce Baillie edits film and talks to the audience. This video work was often used by the filmmaker to introduce, in his absence, film programs scheduled in distant venues. Created also as an formal introduction to an 11-hour archival collection of unfinished films. (Canyon Cinema)
Show Leader (1966) by Bruce Baillie; 16mm, b&w, sound, 1 minute, print from Canyon Cinema
A repeated shot of me in a stream talking to the audience, used as an introduction to Baillie film programs. (Bruce Baillie)
Little Girl (1966) by Bruce Baillie; 16mm, color, sound, 9 minutes, print from Canyon Cinema
This film by Bruce Baillie, completed in 1966 but unreleased until 2014, is contemporaneous with Castro Street, but is much more formally connected to All My Life or Still Life, also from the same year. In three sections with three different formal strategies, Baillie shares distilled moments of found natural beauty as he encountered them in the North Bay outside San Francisco. The first section features a study of plum blossoms, rendered in rich, multiple superimpositions that allow the white flowers to explode into a blizzard of visual complexity, framed by a panning shot of purple mountains. In the second section, Baillie allows us a furtive glimpse of the titular little girl, waving to cars with her dog on the side of the road, lost in her world and thoughts. Bruce’s framing remains unadorned, feeling no need to add to or take away from a beautiful piece of simple portraiture. The third section, of waterbugs on the surface of a pond, remind us how remarkable and sensitive Baillie’s camerawork can be, as he observes their graceful dances, and the subtle light and water effects they produce by their movements. (Mark Toscano)
Termination (1966) by Bruce Baillie; 16mm, b&w, sound, 5 minutes, print from Canyon Cinema
[Paul] Tulley and I made this film for some people up at the Laytonville Rancheria. They were being “terminated” under a new Bureau of Indian Affairs program. (Bruce Baillie)
Still Life (1966) by Bruce Baillie; 16mm, color, sound, 2 minutes, print from Canyon Cinema
From the commune life at Morning Star, where I made Castro Street. (Bruce Baillie)
Quixote (1965) by Bruce Baillie; 16mm, color, sound, 45 minutes, print from Canyon Cinema
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. (Bruce Baillie)
All My Life (1966) by Bruce Baillie; 16mm, color, sound, 3 minutes, print from Canyon Cinema
“Singing fence,” Caspar, California. One continuous moving shot. Ella Fitzgerald singing “All My Life” on the soundtrack. (Bruce Baillie)
TRT: 75 minutes