For some odd reason, the PR for the film asked for no screengrabs from the film to be used. I've never had that request in 20+ years of reviewing films, but that's why the post is no longer very illustrated. Usually, creative screengrabs and even GIFs decorate Internet reviews of films, both supplied and created. I personally don't think screengrabs make people less likely to see this film; quite the opposite. But there you have it.—Ed.
Uncle Howard, Aaron Brookner's poetic, intimate documentary about his search for his late uncle's life's work, is coming to the New York Film Festival (Sunday, October 9, 5:30 p.m., Bruno Walter Auditorium; Monday, October 10, 9 p.m., Francesca Beale Theater) ahead of a November 18 release.
The film makes poignant use of home movies, old newspaper clippings and Aaron's interviews with various artists who worked with his uncle, who died of AIDS before the release of his first major movie, the star-studded curiosity Bloodhounds of Broadway, in 1989.
(Image via Obscured Pictures)
Most effectively, he repurposes pieces of his uncle's Burroughs: The Movie (1983) and its attendant outtakes as well as behind-the-scenes footage from Bloodhounds (several lovely Madonna passages) and Robert Wilson and the Civil Wars (1987) to help convey a sense of his uncle's determined brilliance and to impart that contagious feeling of excitement when things thought lost are found intact.
All the more interesting that it is found intact in Williams S. Burroughs's legendary bunker.
Howard Brookner's family is given as much screen time as his lover, the writer Brad Gooch, whose handsomeness and youth are intact decades after Brookner's was relegated to existing only on film, and this allows the film to be more personal than a simple reassessment of a budding filmmaker's prowess might have been.
Check out Brad Gooch's memoir here!
Director Aaron Brookner with Brad Gooch, Howard Brookner's partner (Image via Obscured Pictures)
There is regret in Uncle Howard, but also hope, and encouragement, and love. Howard Brookner at one point mourns the loss of his elderly grandfather in a video diary, noting that the death would've been far sadder had it involved a young person. And yet when he was about to die, he had words of wisdom that inform his nephew's touching portrait: However short or long, live your life doing what you want.