Un­cle Howard; Wrestling Al­li­ga­tors: The New Semi­nole Wars

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

In the 1980s, Howard Brookner’s di­rec­to­rial ca­reer was tak­ing off. Like many young artists, he grav­i­tated to­ward Wil­liam S. Burroughs, be­com­ing a part of the bo­hemian life­style at the Chelsea Ho­tel and cap­tur­ing the legendary writer in the 1983 doc­u­men­tary Burroughs: The Movie. An­other doc­u­men­tary fol­lowed be­fore Brookner cre­ated his first nar­ra­tive film, 1989’s Blood­hounds of Broad­way. Just be­fore that film’s re­lease, Brookner died of com­pli­ca­tions from AIDS. This doc­u­men­tary by his nephew Aaron Brookner, ex­ec­u­tive-pro­duced by Jim Jar­musch, who did the sound for Burroughs: The Movie, uses a mas­sive trove of newly dis­cov­ered footage to ex­plore Howard’s life. It soon be­comes clear that the in­di­vid­ual biog­ra­phy stands in for the en­tire young, gay com­mu­nity in 1980s New York City — a thriv­ing gen­er­a­tion of artists and en­trepreneurs that was cut short just as it was be­gin­ning to blos­som. One scene shows Howard Brookner’s 1987 birth­day party, full of laugh­ter and en­ergy. Within two years, many of the peo­ple present were dead. Un­cle Howard is sad but not joy­less. It aims to cel­e­brate Howard Brookner and to en­sure the man isn’t for­got­ten — even if we don’t see much of his perspective. He hov­ers around the film’s mar­gins; we hear warm anec­dotes but rarely learn how he thinks or feels. As such, the film works best as a me­mento of an era. Those who re­call or ro­man­ti­cize the run-down yet cul­tur­ally vi­brant New York City of the 1970s and ’80s will find much to cher­ish, as will those with an in­ter­est in queer history. Howard Brookner was only one star in this trag­i­cally ex­tin­guished con­stel­la­tion, but a bright one. — Robert Ker Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 5 p.m. Sun­day, Oct. 23

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