“Mid June, 1968.
You brought me, via your tape, enough joy and thought provocation in Kalamazoo to keep me going all-of-a-piece thru the second very terribly difficult day there. (…) As for your films—ah well… what sheer loveliness as, in the later work, extended with exactitude AND mystery into the film form it engenders for itself—exactly mysterious would be the simplest expletive I could applaud it with… and that’s just a tongue-clap in lieu of saying, more simply, ‘BRAVO!’” (Stan Brakhage to Bruce Baillie)
For more than five decades, Bruce Baillie corresponded with Stan Brakhage. They shared fascinating letters, films, and even audiotapes recorded from a van on the road. This program shows some possible connections and affinities between these two friends’ film universes.
Roslyn Romance (Is It Really True?)
Bruce Baillie, USA, 1977, 16mm, 17m
“When I was filming while living in the small Washington mountain town, Roslyn, I noticed it was to be a romance, in the sense of narrative, as well as a question: ‘Is it really true?’ (i.e., what my neighbors held to be reality?) I began my inquiry in this locus, this film with a ‘postcard form’—I would share, mail, exhibit the reels of film during and after as if they were ‘correspondence with a dear friend’… The work seems to be a sort of manual, concerning all the stuff of the cycle of life, from the most detailed mundanery to … God knows”. – B.B.
The Machine of Eden
Stan Brakhage, USA, 1970, 16mm, 14m
Brakhage’s dreamy vision of pastoral America uses the mechanics and artifacts of a 16mm film camera to reimagine landscapes.
Bruce Baillie, USA, 1966, 16mm, 10m
“Inspired by a lesson from Erik Satie: a film in the form of a street—Castro Street—running by the Standard Oil Refinery in Richmond, California… switch engines on one side, and colorful Standard Oil refinery tanks, smoke stacks, and buildings on the other—the street and film, ending at a lumber company, colored red. All visual and sound elements are from the street, progressing from the beginning to the end of the street, black and white on one side (secondary), and the other in color (primary). Editing/composing occurred while listening to an Indian raga based on similar apparent opposition.” – B.B.
The emergence of a long-switch engineer shot (in black and white) is to the filmmaker, the essential image of consciousness. Baillie worked with outdated Anscochrome T100 and high-contrast Eastman negative copy film in March of that year, and editing the film—using two projectors—at Morning Star Ranch during April and May; the soundtrack was originally two-track stereo but, of necessity, is monaural on the film print; the sound, like the picture, is from the street itself—many sounds are altered by octave via playback speed. Technically, this kind of film begins stretching the limitations of conventional cinema (single screen; conventional recording devices, separate picture and sound; ‘given’ photographed frame; established printing methods).
The Wonder Ring
Stan Brakhage, USA, 1955, 16mm, 6m
Commissioned by Joseph Cornell, The Wonder Ring is Brakhage’s record of New York City’s now-terminated Third Avenue elevated railway.
Bruce Baillie, USA, 1966, 16mm, 5m
“Portrait of a friend named Tung, deriving directly from a momentary image on waking… ‘Seeing / her bright shadow / she was someone / I / you / we / had known.’” – B.B.
Stan Brakhage, USA, 1993, 16mm, 3m
One of the collaborations between Brakhage and optical printer Sam Bush — a short that hurdles through its kaleidoscopic images.
Bruce Baillie, USA, 1966, 16mm, 3m
“One continuous, intimate shot from within the commune. Morning Star, north of San Francisco, where I made Castro Street and where I lived among friends for a time while sleeping in the woods under a special tree with my dog, Mama, under an old tarp. The film manages, I think, to suggest how light itself is movement, how color is movement, and how the combined play of light and color reveal that this tableau represents not only a single reality but 24 realities per second. Being is seen as transitory; everything is in the infinite process of becoming.” – B.B.
Stan Brakhage, USA, 1988, 16mm, 7m
With music by Joel Haertling and Stephen Foster, I… Dreaming envisions melancholia and love through home video footage and words etched across the film’s frames.
All My Life
Bruce Baillie, USA, 1966, 16mm, 3m
“A modern favorite! The film is very brief: it uses the soundtrack of a scratched, old Ella Fitzgerald vinyl recording with the foregoing title, and lasts only as long as it takes to play the record. A mere written description of the work might appear banal: a picket fence paralleling an ancient wooden sewage pipe among cascading, wild red roses—and finally a few telephone wires against the sky. Yet the result is to take an aspect of reality, sift it through the creative Mind, and produce a singular, joyous event!” – B.B.