Quick Billy

Country: USA
Duration: 55 mins
Sound: Sound (Optical)
Available Format/s: 16mm


‘Quick Billy, described as a ‘horse opera in four reels’, is an hour long but broke clearly into four separate sections. The first two are abstract, consisting of footage shot largely next to the Pacific on the Californian coast, bound together by the film-maker’s superimpositions and mattes into a richly coloured, lyrical stream. These two reels are evocative and constructed in a similar way to Baillie’s Castro Street, probably his best known work in this country. Quick Billy takes the direction of his earlier Quixote, an attempt to come to terms with the whole American environment using a trip across the States as the basic structure. Again in that he didn’t follow a narrative line but created a continual flow of superimpositions. Quick Billy is the more personal, more about Baillie himself – with footage taken from ‘dreams and daily life’.
This is emphasised by the third reel which continues the abstract feeling but also includes album photographs and in one corner of the screen – using his masterly matting technique – Baillie shows footage in an 8mm home-movie style of the farm where he lived, its animals, its people, and of himself shooting material for the first two reels.
The fourth reel is a total surprise: ‘a Western one reeler which dramatically summarised the material of the three abstract reels’. ‘Set in Kansas in 1863’, it’s 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. He gets his girl then leaves her to travel and the film ends with a shot of the mounted cowboy and a finely drawn subtitle ‘Ever Westward Eternal Rider’.
Quick Billy is too rich a film to discuss after a single viewing, just to get to the bottom of the superimpositions would take numerous occasions. Similarly one wouldn’t want to draw conclusions about its success, only to totally recommend it. For me, seeing it reminded me of what that much used cliche ‘beautiful photography’ can actually mean when really lived up to.’ – Simon Field .
Roll 41, Roll 43, Roll 46, Roll 47.
Available free on request with QUICK BILLY, Colour, 3 mins, 16mm each.

More works by Bruce Baillie

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