Bruce Baillie – Quick Billy (1971) (DVD)


The experience of transformation between life and death, death and birth, or rebirth in four reels.

Interview With Baillie by Brecht Andersch:

BB: I caught hepatitis almost a year before I started working on Quick Billy. I got the hepatitis at the ranch, then I retired to Berkeley with my parents to lie on the floor next to the couch for the next nine months. It was a real knockout. It was kind of a question of whether I could live or not. Several of my friends had died of it. It wasn’t serum hepatitis, but it was a very serious case that some of us had. And after three or four months, I started to try to walk around a little, and then started to try to drive. That’s how I found myself up at Fort Bragg, where most of my friends lived … I started (shooting) about nine months after the onset of the disease, and a friend let me stay in his cabin on the beach. That was a lifesaver.

BA: That’s where you eventually shot the dramatic stuff for reel four?

BB: Yeah, we shot that there, too, and that was kind of — in some ways a recapitulation of all the basic themes in terms of a very abbreviated Western genre kinda thing, as you know. And with all the principals of my life and world around me taking parts. We just kinda made it up as we went. We had this high-contrast black-and-white film for titling labs used, and I gave it an ASA rating of probably 6 or 12 or something. And I only had one lamp, a photo lamp. So we had to shoot wide open at 1.4 all the time.

Part of the cure was having, by chance, run onto the Bardo Thodol — The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I don’t know where I ran onto it, but I took it as a daily gospel in a sense — a source of real information for transit between: between … between. Period. God knows how to say between what and what. For example, between death and rebirth, the transit (of the soul) … The metaphysical information — how to deal with the trip of the spirit, and the death of the body, and what to do with the intellect, if anything, and the emotional mind, and all the rest of that, and it’s all kind of covered in (the Bardo Thodol) … So I got into the color coding and everything that referred to — the universal directions according to Tibetan mythology, for example. I didn’t in a fundamentalist way literally subscribe to somebody else’s literature, but in finding The Tibetan Book of the Dead, I found a manual on how to make it in that situation that is after life, or between, and that was the experience … That is the essence of that time and experience, and so I naturally took to recording as one might. You know? How does one document the invisible? The affairs of the soul, the troubled affairs of the soul in this case — the “in transit” — how do you record that? So, I set up a sort of aquarium in a big window facing south, where the Northern California sun would be giving me a nice backlight, and I put a lot of stuff in the aquarium that I’d find on the beach, and a lot of colored rocks, marbles, what-have-you. I don’t remember exactly what all this stuff was, but then I’d set my camera and tripod up when I’d have maybe an hour of strength to work, and shoot against this winter sun, I think it was, mostly. Sparkly and low in the sky. And, just, oooo, light was the whole essence of the adventure. Either the loss of light, or the recovery of light, or the DIS-covery of light — capital “L,” life, light. I was shooting with 16mm Kodachrome, for the contrast and the saturation it would allow, and with a macro-telephoto lens. It was very nice, that three-inch (75mm) macro lens, (and equipped) with extension tubes (to multiply the telephoto effect). These give you a different focal length, sometimes very short. The focus must be hairline, or you could reach way out to where it would be a little more reasonable. And so I started recording the experience that way, and I was concerned with, and aware of, color segments, or scenes. Whole scenes, sections, that would be maybe essentially red, earth red. Part one was the “light” section, or aspect of the journey, beginning with pure light — no action, no movement, no thought, no thing, just illuminated frame — pure white, pretty much, from the sun, actually. And then gradually degenerating in a sense into identifiable imagery — purely abstract for a while: from the sea, bubbles and so on, and then becoming creatures. All within certain interrelated patterns: the blue, the masculine, the eternal aspect. The red and the yellow of earth, and the direction south, (these were all symbolically significant) in this particular mythology that I was basing my efforts on. Reel two is just the exact opposite construction: of all the negative aspects of terror, fear, for example. So that’s the way it went.

DVD Source: All Region, DVD5
DVD Format: NTSC
DVD Audio: Stereo
Program: Mactheripper
Menus: Untouched
Video: Untouched
Audio: Untouched
DVD extras: Untouched

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