BURROUGHS: THE MOVIE

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First show: March 10

V. VALE from RE/Search will be IN PERSON at the Friday 3/10 screenings of both films!!!!!!! 

In conjunction with our screening of the documentary UNCLE HOWARD we are screening the remastered original film discovered by Howard Brookner’s nephew Aaron.

Burroughs: The Movie explores the life and times of controversial Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs, with an intimacy never before seen and never repeated. The film charts the development of Burroughs’ unique literary style and his wildly unconventional life, including his travels from the American Midwest to North Africa and several personal tragedies. 

Made up of intimate, revelatory footage of the singular author and poet filmed over the course of five years, Howard Brookner’s 1983 documentary was for decades mainly the stuff of legend; that changed when Aaron Brookner, the late director’s nephew, discovered a print of it in 2011 and spearheaded a restoration. Filming began in 1978 as Brookner’s senior thesis at NYU film school and then expanded into a feature which was completed 5 years later in 1983. Sound was recorded by Jim Jarmusch and the film was shot by Tom DiCillo, fellow NYU classmates and both very close friends of Brookner’s. Featuring on-screen appearances by fellow artists of Burroughs’s including Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke, Patti Smith, and Terry Southern, Burroughs: The Movie,  is a one-of-a-kind nonfiction portrait.

Dir. Howard Brookner 1983 USA 90 mins

Remastered After 30 Years – The Story

After being lost for thirty years, Burroughs: The Movie is now digitally remastered after an exhaustive search by Aaron Brookner, nephew of the film’s director Howard Brookner.

Burroughs: The Movie was remastered from a 16mm print from the archives of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The film was restored by Pinball London Ltd, with the generous support of the Burroughs: The Movie Kickstarter backers. Digital remastering by Prime Focus, New York; grading supervised by original cinematographer Tom DiCillo.

Statement from Aaron Brookner

Growing up, I saw the poster for Burroughs: The Movie on the wall in my grandmother’s house. Before I knew anything of who he was, I knew his face.

Then, before I had read any of his books I had seen Howard’s movie. From the age of ten, until I was about twenty I probably watched the film hundreds of times on VHS. Then I started reading Burroughs, starting with Howard’s copy of Junky.

Having seen clips of the film on YouTube in recent years, I started to wonder where the film itself was. Initially I started looking for the 16mm negative, but it seemed to have disappeared. I started to look for a print instead and found one in Australia. It was Howard’s festival print and when they brought it out it was really beaten up, so I couldn’t use it. Then I found one in Berlin, which had German subtitles burned into it.

Finally I discovered that Howard’s long-time partner, Brad Gooch, had donated a print to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) around the time Howard died. Brad had no recollection of this, which goes to show the state of shock his was in after Howard died.

MoMA agreed to release the print on one occasion, so that we could create a digital master of it, before returning it to their archive for safety. To make this process a reality we turned to Kickstarter. It was super encouraging to find out how many people, from the US to the Far East, were interested in the film.

Today I think the film is incredibly refreshing to watch. Burroughs: The Movie is raw and pure, but with the story of an incredibly complex character unfolding at its centre.

About the director Howard Brookner

Howard Brookner’s heart and pulse was rooted in the chaotic, vibrant grid that is New York City. The filmmaker/director was a fixture on the Bowery. He called the Chelsea Hotel home.

He’s regarded for his 1983 documentary on beat generation icon William S. Burrroughs, Burroughs: The Movie. The native New Yorker’s rich look at avant-garde theatre director Robert Wilson’s efforts in creating a 12-hour, multi-national opera coinciding the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles followed in 1987’s Robert Wilson and the Civil Wars. Two years later, an all-star cast including Madonna, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Grey, among others, hit the silver screen for Howard’s Bloodhounds of Broadway. Sadly, such a promising young talent would soon leave the scene, as Howard was just 34 years old when he passed away from AIDS in 1989.

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