Friday, February 6, 2009

Avant-Garde: All My Life (1966, Bruce Baillie)

All My Life (1966)
USA, 3 min
Directed by: Bruce Baillie

I can't say that the prospect of a 3-minute leftwards pan was appealing to me, but I actually found All My Life (1966) quite relaxing. A filmmaker should never underestimate the power of a well-chosen soundtrack, and Ella Fitzgerald's "All My Life" works perfectly, evoking a simpler time and place. I don't see any reason why a backyard fence, examined from right-to-left, should be nostalgic in any way, but it is. The camera follows along the length of the fence, sometimes tilting upwards to take into account the bushes, and ends the film by rising up into the sky, passing a telephone wire and losing itself in the emptiness of the blue overhead. Aside from the camera movements, there's no action and no story. Just a fence, that music, and the memory of a childhood you'd forgotten.

Many of the avant-garde films of the 1960s have a tendency to be unintelligible, and often very grating. All My Life doesn't really have an obvious point to it, but, whatever it's doing, it seems to make a lot of sense. Maybe the length of fence represents a man's life (the film's title seems to support this idea). The missing pickets represent our mistakes in life. The continual leftwards-panning of the camera is inspired by the idea that, though we move leisurely through our lifetimes, we are nonetheless constantly moving forward, never able to turn around and correct the mistakes of our past, having always to suffer the consequences of our errors. At the end of our fences, of course, we go to Heaven, completely removed from the life we'd lived before. It's a novel interpretation, perhaps, but I like it.


  1. 3-minutes of a leftward pan is bearable and interesting, wait till you reach Michael Snow's 45-minute zoom with Wavelength. Sure you can say that he is trying to make the space the character, but by the end of the 45 minutes you are ready to pull your hair out. The high pitched sinusoidal wave doesn't help matters.

    Oh, by the way if you are screening this shorts on YouTube you should embed the video in your review to make it easy for us to view the short ourselves.

  2. Yeah, I can't say that I'm anxiously awaiting "Wavelength." It's on the TSPDT top 1000, isn't it?

    I'd rather not embed videos directly into my blog. It's aesthetically unpleasing, I think, and I don't want to link directly to material that is probably breaching copyright laws.

    I'll have a think about it.

  3. Yep, that's the only reason I watched it. There is also another Michael Snow film on the list that I haven't been able to track down yet. It actually sounds reasonably interesting.

    Keep up the good work on these shorts. It is definitely an under appreciated form of film and under represented on the TSPDT top 1000. You might see if you can find the shorts: N.Y., N.Y. and Manhatta. TCM played them a few weeks back and they were really interesting.


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