Planting the Tree of Life: David Brooks

Like many I recently had a chance to attend a theater screening of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, and while there were several  sequences of an intense and weighty moment-to-moment/frame-to-frame clarity and specificity,  I was little reticent invoking a term like “visionary” considering the previous precedence of a considerable amount of the film’s formal strategies (albeit on a much humbler scale).  Such precedents have previously been highlighted by several very knowledgeable sources, from Belson to Davis, Brakhage ((indeed when many years ago Marie Nesthus, writing on the influence of Messiaen on Brakhage, wrote that "Each begins with the 'ordinary' material of life and filters it through his complex and highly sophisticated/totally naive artistic consciousness in the attempt to depict a reality based on interior (or perhaps, transcendent) truth" she could have just as well been speaking of Malick)) to Baillie, Beavers to Dorsky, and even Scott Nyerges, from whom Malick chose to license work directly.  While in some alternate reality it would somehow be possible for the film to prominently acknowledge these various poles of influence, I recognize that harboring some form of malcontent over the issue is completely unproductive and unfair, and would instead like to use the recognition sparked by Malick’s film to bring a few of these various works closer to the forefront.  One such film that I have not yet seen mentioned is David Brooks’ The Wind is Driving Him Towards the Open Sea.  Like Malick’s work it is a restless and somewhat tortured exploration that vibrates on both a macro and micro wavelength, with a montage that cascades in a manner at once jarring and fluid.  It is a work of remarkably assured vision for a filmmaker who at the time was only in his early twenties.  Tragically it would be his final statement, as a year later he was killed in a car crash.  In all my searching since having seen the film I have only come across two reviews of the film, one from Fred Camper and the other, as one might expect, from Jonas Mekas.  I’ve included Mekas’ review along with his fiery eulogy (both can be found in his Movie Journal: The Rise of the New American Cinema 1959-1971):

(stills via Anthology Archives)


The film is available for rent from the Film-makers Co-op, along with several other works by Brooks which I have not yet seen…


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