An Interview with Bruce Baillie

Échange de mails entre Bruce Baillie et Carlos Adriano, 2005
From: « carlos.adriano »
To: « Bruce Baillie »
Subject: interview
Date: Tue, 31 May 2005 22:04:09
Dear Bruce Baillie,
Do you remember you’ve accepted my proposal for an interview by email? Here go the questions. Thanks a lot
for giving me the honor of this conversation.
1- You are working on the transferring of all your 16mm films to DVD. The plan is to release 5 or 7 volumes with
a two-disc (double set) DVD at each volume and it includes your final film, ‘Memoirs of an Angel’.
a) How many films will be included? Any extra material (as interviews)?
b) What is the feeling of having all your work available at once and also for a young generation?
c) Do you have any sense (or temptation) of evaluation your work as a whole with this opportunity?
2- You were one of the pioneers in U.S. to show and distribute independent films and avantgarde work, as a
founder of Canyon film distributor.
a) How do you see the slotse for experimental films today?
b) How do you think avantgarde work is considered inside film (mainstream) culture?
3- Do you see any future in the relationship between cinema and internet?
4- What do you think of Hollywood today?
5- Your generation (not only filmmakers, but also poets, painters and musicians) had a project for a better society.
a) What is your opinion of current America under Bush administration?
b) How is the cultural « ambience » in U.S. today?
6- Are you working in any new film or a new work? (If so, what is that?)
7- What can you answer to the question: why do you make films? What has been your purpose as a film artist?
Warmest regards,

From Bruce Baillie.
Cc/to: My website,, and for the Brazilian magazine, TROPICO.
Dear Carlos,
Sorry for delay, I have had an eight month series of flu and colds … our son, Keith, just finishing his last day in first grade. Language here may be abbreviated to conserve energy and relative mental clarity. Much appreciate hearing from you.
1. Just beginning my second year with Volume I. Disc 1: Tung, Mass, Valentin de las Sierras, Castro Street, All My Life. Disc 2: Study Reel, by Sami Van Ingen, Finland, 2002. It is an expensive and complicated procedure digitally remastering and locating the best original film materials, doing my own graphics, etc. As I write, the new lab DV masters are nearly all assembled for making the second DV master for Vol.I, which will include inserts from Stan Brakhage and myself speaking about certain of the films, an archival still of myself editing Quick Billy in Ft Bragg, CA, ’73 by (deceased) Kenji Kanesaka, and an excerpt of Jonas Mekas presenting the ’05 Lifetime Achievment Award in NY for my work in cinema. Copies will be DVD. The one-hour piece by Sami Van Ingen is filled with commentary on various of the films along with the one-hour video of myself and family.
The graphics allow for some inclusion from my archives – current and historic photographs, notes from the ongoing, « Chapt XI », etc. Volume II, Disc 1: Quixote and To Parsifal. Disc 2: CD (Radio), Dr Bish Remedies #XIV. Volume III, Dis 1: Quick Billy. Disc 2: The Rolls (Quick Billy). Volume IV: Intro Holy Scrolls. Here I Am (just released from new interneg and a new DV master). The P-39 Pilot (video). Intro Roslyn Romance. Excerpts from Commute (video), Day Ashore (unfinished film), On Sundays (first film), some smaller video pieces … The Return of The Cardinal, etc. Volume V: Les Memoires d’un Ange (Memoires of an Angel) video in three parts. Part I, SALUTE, already finished and in limited release. There may be others to follow, the 11-hour Holy Scrolls, etc., but I should live so long, as they say in Brooklyn (God Bless Charles Levine).
2. Yes, Canyon Cinema began in my backyard, 1961, to correct a few of the histories. The distribution aspect came along a bit later. We have quite an extensive catalog at Canyon, still flourishing in its 44th year. As to Culture, in the overview, so to speak, America has always been a vital and most interesting multicultural society – aside from nature, one of my own inspirations for living and working in this country. However, Culture in a more specific context remains I think a question mark. A huge question. The culture of business as usual, the automobile, profit and loss, real estate, the football score, spiritually vacant technological phenomena. Art and artist lost along with the disenfranchised poor.
Forgotten, Le Sange du Poet (sp?), the mystery of found imagery which speaks for an entire people, a Culture. What remains of a people: the unique design on a pottery shard, an hieroglyph, a masque, the touch – the blood of the Poet, the sound of Eternity, a message in code from « somewhere utterly else » (to quote Brakhage in his introduction to my Castro Street). The art of the moving image – film, cinema, video, television, etc – is THE singular and most universally effective medium ever devised by mankind with its potential for explaining or essentially identifying us personally and collectively. Worldwide, it is the once localized city state central frieze, the centralized, continuous Theatre of our times, alive and awake with the vital information of WHO AM I, WHO ARE WE. Rather than this absurd actuality, « constant misinformation » ( i.e.,commercialized, popluar media). Is it really « experimental » to create – recreate simply truth and beauty?
Answering your question re the avantgarde – art and artist, or simply, being human, in mainstream society nonculture … there is generally no information available on the subject …. I assure you of the odd veracity of this statement, living as we do in a common neighborhood, working in various fields as volunteer here, there, anywhere. « All of it lost », my friend used to say, it is forgotten. That is perhaps why I have taken on this final task.
3. I am too tired at the moment to respond to this once interesting topic, one which I believe I will mostly leave to the young. There is a certain particular value one recalls in « going to the movies »: the old cinema, the heavy maroon mohair seats, the curtains, the golden chain ropes, the popcorn, the darkness and anticipation, and so on. Even today, in reviewing film prints by projection re the DVD project, and viewing video by electronic monitor, there is an essential difference. Unfortunately, re films and film labs, nearly all the important lovely film stocks are no longer in production, having succumbed to the contemporaneous preference for convenience over beauty. There WAS something about going to the movies, like potluck dinners with a random crowd of humanity.
4. Hollywood. Of course there is no such entity (try a visit to Hollywood and Vine, a ghetto of Taiwanese trinketry, smog and littered avenues … missing those charming, innumerable imitators of Charles Bronson, Lana Turner, Tyrone Power, and so on, working at Castle Burgers or the Hollywood YMCA), however THE REAL MOVIES are still appearing from somewhere, with perennial indifference to all but the homicidal automobiles, the childish scripts from UCLA, etc. And, amongst the constant trash there are those more than wonderful, amazing feature films of genius.
I will have to write further at another time.\line Since I will have this posted to my web, both questions and response, I would like to take the opportunity to greet so many old friends and those readers who may become new friends. Let us stay in touch, in part via these several filmmaker websites, as we once did when we were constantly « on tour », on the road, showing our work, enjoying dinners and good conversation together. And … do not be put off by SUCCESS. The crowd pleasers, the festival winners, the money makers. (I hope one day to publish The Doctor’s manual, « Alternatives to Success »). I am this week, for example, waiting for the right moment for backlight behind the swaying, extraordinarily tall green grasses we have here this early summer – just that, and the right piece of music. Lets hear from you: What was for supper last night? The dream? Your work.
– Bruce Baillie


Texte initialement paru sur le site du cinéaste

Compte youtube de Bruce Baillie.

Enregistrement sonore d’une présentation de Quick Billy et Roslyn Romance par Bruce Baillie (1977).

Captation vidéo d’une discussion en 2011 entre Apichatpong Weerasethakul et Bruce Baillie après la projection du film Quick Billy.

Copies 16mm de ses films en location à Light cone, Cinédoc, Canyon Cinema et The Film-Makers’ Coop.

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