Uncle Howard

Uncle Howard ★★★★

Uncle Howard is a documentary made by Aaron Brookner mostly from odds and ends of unused film footage left behind by his uncle, a young filmmaker named Howard Brookner, with some contemporary footage of the people from his 2 documentaries he made in the early 80s (William Burroughs and Robert Wilson) and the one drama he directed though he died before it opened (Bloodhounds of Broadway) from complications with AIDS. Brookner, through his association with Burroughs ran around from the late 70s to the late 80s within a culture of beat poets, and underground writers and artists. His boyfriend for ten years was the male model turned novelist, Brad Gooch, who stayed by him to the bitter end. His nephew, Aaron, who was quite young when he died, nonetheless adored him to the point that he ended up going to NYU film school himself and this film is the result of that arc of his life. It's a very sad and mournful film but you get interviews with people like Jim Jarmusch and even see him as a young man doing sound for Brookner's documentaries with that shock of hair except it's black and not the characteristic white we're used to seeing. It's a multilevel narrative that bounces back and forth between Brookner's early New York film school days and the present which shows Aaron having some trouble acquiring the footage from storage facilities and John Giorno's bunker space in the Bowery. The interviews with Brookner's parents in the present reveals that they were stricken when he announced to them that he was gay, showing that this minority has a long way to go before their presence is taken for granted. And for those people in the 70s who had to get used to such an identity showing up among their families to see so many of them fall to the scourge of AIDS must have seemed like the trumpet of a prophecy come true -- but a fascinating and disturbingly mournful film nonetheless. It takes a little while for the pall and fascination of the film to seep into you but once it does you can't stop it any more than you can stop yourself from looking at a car accident that's been beautifully staged.

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