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Bruce Baillie's Quick Billy (1970)

  • EMMEDIA Gallery and Production Society 2005 – 10 Avenue Southwest Calgary, AB, T3C 0K4 Canada (map)

Quick Billy (1970)
Bruce Baillie
16mm with Optical Sound - 60 minutes
Admission is by donation (pay what you can)

There will be an encore presentation on July 19, 2018, at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in Lethbridge.

MONOGRAPH is pleased to present Bruce Baillie's 1970 feature film Quick Billy, on 16mm film with optical sound. Also screening along with the principal film are Quick Billy Rolls 14, 41, 43, 46, 47 and 52, a series of silent 3-minute reels shot during the construction of Quick Billy.

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

Based on the Bardo Thodol (The Tibetan Book of the Dead), the film is a Horse Opera in four reels, conceived for viewing with a single projector, allowing the natural pauses between reels. The final reel, set in Kansas in 1863, is a perfect vision of the early style of westerns, all coloured in sepia, with Quick Billy , the amorous, hard drinking hero, played admirably by Baillie himself. The spectacle that is Quick Billy is hard to describe, but 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 patterns 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 (born in 1931, Aberdeen, South Dakota) is an American cinematic artist and founding member of Canyon Cinema in San Francisco. In 1961, Baillie, along with friend and fellow cinematic artist Chick Strand, among others, founded San Francisco Cinematheque. His body of cinematic work includes Quick Billy, To Parsifal, Mass for the Dakota Sioux, Castro Street, and the motion pictures Valentin de las Sierras, Roslyn Romance, and Tung, among many others.

MONOGRAPH would like to thank our partner organizations EMMEDIA Gallery and Production Society, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and the Lethbridge Independent Film Society for making this presentation possible.