The Transcendent Cinema of David Brooks

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Born in 1944 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, David Brooks entered Columbia University in the early 1960s, where he immersed himself in the study of philosophy and psychology, with a particular interest in psychoanalysis and the work of Freud. During this time Brooks met critic and filmmaker Jonas Mekas and immediately got involved in New York’s burgeoning independent and experimental film scene. By 1962 Mekas had personally enlisted Brooks, then only 18 years old, to be the first Executive Director of the newly established Film-Makers’ Cooperative. He compiled the Coop’s first distribution catalog that same year. Brooks soon left Columbia to dedicate himself to making films. For an all-too-short window, he was a leading filmmaker of his era, his films screening in programs with the likes of Bruce Conner, Ron Rice, and Stan Brakhage. He eventually took a film teaching position in 1968 at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Sadly, Brooks only completed six films before his tragic death in 1969, at age 24. His singular films, which typically combine mesmerizing sound collages with lush imagery from his daily life, are lyrical, personal, honest, and transcendent. To celebrate his life and work on the fiftieth anniversary of his death, we’re proud to host a complete retrospective and reintroduce this still under-recognized figure. All the films have been preserved by Anthology including the preservation premieres of two of Brooks’s best remembered works, NIGHTSPRING DAYSTAR and WINTER ’64-’66!

“David Brooks established himself during the 1960s as one of the most prominent lyricists of the experimental cinema. His work was eclipsed by his early death in 1969 at the age of twenty-four and throughout the next decade by the cooler, more controlled sensibility of structural film. As a consequence, his films are scarcely remembered today, which is particularly unfortunate since at least two of them – NIGHTSPRING DAYSTAR and THE WIND IS DRIVING HIM TOWARD THE OPEN SEA – deserve a place as among the most important films of this period.” –J.J. Murphy, FILM CULTURE

“That Brooks’s films are as fresh now as the day they were made is a fact that must be faced.” –David Ehrenstein

Special thanks to Carolyn Brooks, Jonas Mekas, Andrew Lampert, the National Film Preservation Foundation, The Film Foundation, The George Lucas Family Foundation, Cineric, Western Cine, Colorlab, and Audio Mechanics.

June 28, 19:30h
July 1, 19h

Program 1: Shorts
- JERRY (1963, 3 min, 16mm, silent. Preserved by Anthology Film Archives with support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts)
Brooks’s black & white portrait of fabled underground filmmaker and collagist Jerry Jofen.
“Part I: music as image… Part II: movement of the film-maker.” –David Brooks
“One of my all-time favorite films.” –P. Adams Sitney

- NIGHTSPRING DAYSTAR (1964, 18 min, 16mm. Preservation Premiere!)
Preserved by Anthology Film Archives through the National Film Preservation Foundation’s Avant-Garde Masters Grant program and The Film Foundation. Funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. Special thanks to Chris Hughes (Colorlab) and John Polito & Clay Dean (Audio Mechanics).
“Dark to light, sadness to happiness, night to day; the film springs from the night through the dawn to the daystar, following the adventures of the mind on the way.” –David Brooks
“Something should be said about the soundtrack of this film. I know only two other films – FLAMING CREATURES and SCORPIO RISING – where the pop and jazz music has been used so hypnotically, so effectively without killing the image.” –Jonas Mekas, MOVIE JOURNAL

- ROLAND KIRK (ca. 1964, 4 min, 16mm, silent. Preserved by Anthology Film Archives with support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.)
Brooks edited this footage but never printed it in his lifetime. While we cannot know for sure the true origins of, or intentions for, this material, it is a stunning document of the legendary jazz musician.

- WINTER (’64-’66 1964-66, 1000 seconds, 16mm. Preservation Premiere!)
Preserved by Anthology Film Archives through the National Film Preservation Foundation’s Avant-Garde Masters Grant program and The Film Foundation. Funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. Special thanks to Chris Hughes (Colorlab) and John Polito & Clay Dean (Audio Mechanics).
“Door golden night room trees fire drip rain blue horse river 
 snow birds green mountain forest dark room mist car tress 
 window ducks are flying….

Overtones: Raga Palas Kafi, Grant’s, Slug’s, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Raga Rageshri, the wind, Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, Piatnitsky Chorus.
Locales: Nantucket, Kazakhstan, Grant’s, Nepal, Colorado, Mt. Kearsarge, Iowa, 7th Street.” –David Brooks

- LETTER TO D.H. IN PARIS (1967, 4 min, 16mm. New Print!)
Preserved by Anthology Film Archives with support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
“Stoned friends/music more music/fields/movement/play/spontaneous/very beautiful.” –Carolyn Brooks

- EEL CREEK (1968, 7 min, 16mm. New Print!)
Preserved by Anthology Film Archives with support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
“Fishing/boys and father/pure/simple/straight forward” –Carolyn Brooks

June 29, 19:30h
July 1, 20:45h
Program 2: The Wind is Driving Him Toward the Open Sea
- THE WIND IS DRIVING HIM TOWARD THE OPEN SEA (1968, 52 min, 16mm. Preserved by Anthology Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.)
“In the beginning a philosopher tells of seeing his hero, DiMaggio, hit a home run. How did he know he hit a home run? He checked the newspapers. How did they know? The philosophers ask, ‘How can we prove that this is grass?’ How do we know anything? THE WIND… is about those explorations one must make to find out about the world.
The object of any man’s exploration must ultimately be a woman, a kumari.
In the film a boy travels, while we search for a man, Chandler Moore. He is never found, but we see the world he has made for himself. When one does not find a kumari one often finds a kumiss.
A film in numerous realities including those of image, news, myth, philosophy, documentary, mythopoeia.” –David Brooks
“David Brooks manages to fuse in it a number of different techniques which, till now, have been used only in non-narrative, poetic film-techniques such as single frame, free, impressionistic camera movement, almost total plotlessness, etc. The other thing I like about THE WIND is a fascinating melancholy that surrounds it. Its narrative of moods, of reflection, of things lost, gone, like autumn leaves – no tragedy, really, only a mood of melancholy, of sadness – of friends, of ways of life, of cultures gone, of ages coming and going – these are just some of the notes that the film strikes. Romanticism? Perhaps.” –Jonas Mekas, MOVIE JOURNAL

With:
David Brooks & Ira Schneider REDCAP and PEANUT BUTTER ON MY ROOF (1965, 14 min, 16mm. Preserved by Anthology Film Archives with support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.)
“A mutual venture of a most inordinate sort. Vaguely a mistake, but fun at that.” –David Brooks & Ira Schneider

June 30, 17h
Program 3: Unfinished Works - Carolyn and Me
- CAROLYN AND ME: PARTS 1-3 (ca. 1968, 104 min, 16mm, silent)
Filmed primarily in 1968, CAROLYN AND ME was in-progress when Brooks died in 1969. Intended to be a sound film, the unfinished film is presented exactly as prepared by Brooks for a first-stage workprint and is silent.
Part One: “fields trees sky/Jeff/driving/girl/David–Martha’s Vineyard/postcard/TV/David’s room–7th Street/David writing letter/grandfather/sky/NYC bus–inside/lake/Carolyn shooting/kyack/sunrise–beach/C in hammock/sun sky lake/inside looking out/flashing sky/ducks/Carolyn, Marni & Hermann at beach/Holmstroms/c d m & h playing and shooting at beach and leaving/ducks trees house/driving in red sky/Mike/misty fields horses/inside refrigerator/lake house dock/driving/sunset/” –Carolyn Brooks

Part Two: “trees/sister Judy & boyfriend/house lake/C driving/trees etc/C cooking/neighborhood picnic/D walking in woods/from mountain/bird/C & D in house/from lake/NYC streets/Fillmore crowd/city night lights/D & C walking/Dan & Delia reading in bed/office/C making popcorn/C & D eating popcorn/in house/Brocks/people leaving Washington march in red sunset/train station and leaving/Rosie’s Candy Store (7th St.)/Driving night light/kitten/trees/dinner at Brocks–candlelight/blue woods/VW bus/blue night sky/C talking/C washing dishes/C wearing funny hat smiling” –Carolyn Brooks

Part Three: “white horse circus/Ridgefield cabin/Marni Hermann Carolyn at fire/driving/snow/candle/C brushing teeth/two Tibetan Buddhist monks/breakfast at Woodbridge–C with father/airplanes/New Hampshire lake sun/Boynton’s (N.H.) breakfast/Paradox, N.Y.–children and goat/prison/people in water/Tibetan seminar/D walking/C & D hugging/driving/C in sari/Jon/swimming/Middletown cows in field/snow–trees/driving/Speeds Diner/Merka taking pix/C in bathing suit/fall woods/sunset/Chandler Moore’s house–M.V.” –Carolyn Brooks

June 30, 19:30h
Program 3: Unfinished Works - Selected Fragments
- EARLY FRAGMENTS (1963-66, 28 min, 16mm-to-digital)
- LATE FRAGMENTS (1966-69, 30 min, 16mm-to-digital)
These reels were compiled from loose footage and fragments shortly after Brooks’s death by Jonas Mekas and Carolyn Brooks. They have rarely, if ever, screened publicly.

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Friday, June 28, 2019 (All day) to Monday, July 1, 2019 (All day)
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