Uncle Howard TBC
Filmmaker Aaron Brookner always looked up to his uncle Howard, an NYU film student whose thesis was a documentary on William Burroughs. The film never was never edited and so Aaron goes about tracking down the footage in the hope of possibly understanding his director uncle more. Howard Brookner went on to direct Madonna, Rutger Hauer and Matt Dillon in period drama Bloodhounds of Broadway, his last film before he succumbed to AIDS in 1989…
There has been a spate of personal documentaries of late with Michel Gondry's Thorn In My Heart, Stephanie Argerich's Argerich, Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell and Chantal Akerman's No Home Movie boasting varying degrees of success: Brookner's film may not be as strong as Polley's but it's a damn sight more engaging than Gondry or Akerman's. For a stretch here, however, Uncle Howard leans towards navel-gazing with Brookner believing the audience is as fascinated with his mentor as he is.
At other times the director seems more interested in the lost Burroughs footage – which Jarmusch and Living In Oblivion director DiCillo both worked on – and throws himself into unearthing some fascinating footage that will astound Burroughs fans. Apart from Howard's closeness to Burroughs (close but not "on farting terms," says DiCillo) and his partaking in the drug scene that surrounded the writer, there's more a fascination with the footage shot than the man who shot it.
It's really only when Brookner reveals that Howard was gay (a revelation to this reviewer but probably common knowledge to those who read up on him beforehand) that proceedings get really involving. Coming out to his family at a time when AIDS was considered an epidemic was difficult for the burgeoning filmmaker, and his withering away on screen is as stark as it is moving. Aaron Brookner makes no bones about the punishing schedule of Bloodhounds hastened his death.
Review by Gavin Burke | 10:02 | Tuesday 13th December 2016 | Movie Review