Alt. Feature: ALL MY LIFE (Bruce Baillie)
I have mixed feelings about the posting a video of such poor quality. However, I think you still get an idea of how great this film is, and perhaps it will even inspire you to seek out a better copy. I would start here: http://www.brucebaillie.com/
In the meantime please enjoy today’s film and our first Alternative Feature
Appreciation for All My Life:
The first time I saw Baillie’s minor masterwork, I was struck by the sheer beauty of it, but I concluded that it was a quite incomplete film, as if the single shot was but a small part of a film that did not exist. Here, I believed, was something akin to a great contemplative shot from a film by a meditative master like Andrei Tarkovsky or Yasujiro Ozu, but without the narrative context it so much needed. After watching Baillie’s film twice more in classroom settings with mostly first-time viewers I have found my initial response to be rather common, and I now understand that my first assessment of All My Life had more to do with my immaturity than the film’s incompletion. The film requires a particular cinematic maturity on the part of the viewer.
All My Life is a film that will likely upset the friend to whom you recommended it. A great sigh will come, then the question: “What was so great about that?” Many people are unwilling to accept this because they want knowledge from their art. They want some position about something to be declared by someone or something so that they can argue with it. Scholars and students alike are unaccustomed to treating experience as a form of knowledge. We all have a preference for the knowledge we can gain from an experience. Consequently, we often forget to have the experience even while it is happening.
It is important to understand the difference between these two kinds of knowledge. As Baillie once told an interviewer: “I have almost no data stored in my brain. My life and my art are entirely noninformative.” It is not a lesson learned or a message obtained; it is rather a state of being achieved. All My Life provides an experience of time that is only possible in cinema. A shot is a fixed chunk of time. It is a preserved duration. Baillie has eliminated the baggage of storytelling, and delivered only that essential element of cinema – the shot. The lack of narrative is far from being a weakness; it is indeed the film’s great achievement. One may even say All My Life is the only perfect film ever made.