Uncle Howard

Uncle Howard ★★★½

My family was never one for home movies. I don't recall us even owning a video camera, though they were pretty common at the time. I think I'd be a little spun out to be able to connect with my youth in that way. If Aaron Brookner's experience in Uncle Howard is anything to go by, I'm spot on in my assessment. 

To arrive at that (rather odd) comparison takes a few adjustments. For one, my family didn't leave behind a significant film covering an American cultural icon, in Aaron's particular case, his uncle, Howard Brookner garnered critical acclaim for his documentary Burroughs: The Movie, the making of which brought him into contact with the creme de la creme of independent film making in the 1980s (John Waters, Jim Jarmusch, Sara Driver) and cultural heavyweights of the decades prior (Ginsberg, Warhol and of course Burroughs).

Uncle Howard takes that "how cool is this" fandom as its giddy starting point, as Aaron sets out to recover the archived footage from his uncle's famous work to prepare it for restoration, and it will be a fascinating watch for fans of Burroughs: The Movie, Burroughs the man, or film making in that era. 

But Uncle Howard's real emotional power comes when it veers from Aaron's original intentions, which it does with surprising fluidity once Aaron realises, surprisingly, that Burrough's isn't the most interesting person in his film.

The resulting documentary reaps the rewards of the startling intimacy between the film maker and his subject just as it suffers some of its pitfalls, especially as in its closing sections. Most will forgive the indulgence though, especially in the light of the Aaron's illuminating revitalisation of his uncle's reputation.

A touching reverie on what the HIV/Aids epidemic snatched from us creatively and personally.

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