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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Burroughs aka "Burroughs: The Movie" [Blu-ray]

 

(Howard Brookner, 1983)

 

Coming to the UK on Criterion Blu-ray July 11th, 2016:

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Citifilmworks

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #789

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:30:09.404

Disc Size: 47,642,527,308 bytes

Feature Size: 26,621,958,144 bytes

Video Bitrate: 33.99 Mbps

Chapters: 15

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: December 15th, 2015

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• New audio commentary by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who was a sound recordist on the film
Audio interview with director Howard Brookner from 1985, conducted by William S. Burroughs biographer Ted Morgan (23:48)
New interview with Brookner’s nephew, filmmaker Aaron Brookner, who oversaw the film’s restoration (15:35)
Rare outtakes (New York - 20:22, Weapons - 14:04, Nova Connection - 8:13, Interviews - 15:34, Travel - 11:23)
Footage from the 2014 New York Film Festival premiere of the film’s restoration, featuring a Q&A with Jarmusch, Aaron Brookner, filmmaker Tom DiCillo, and Burroughs’s friend and fellow writer James Grauerholz (26:47)
Thirty-minute experimental edit of the film from 1981 by inventor and photographer Robert E. Fulton III (23:38)
PLUS: An essay by critic Luc Sante and collage artwork by artist Alison Mosshart

 

Bitrate:

 

 

 

Description: Made up of intimate, revelatory footage of the singular author and poet filmed over the course of five years, Howard Brookner’s 1983 documentary about William S. Burroughs 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. Now viewers can enjoy the invigorating candidness of Burroughs: The Movie, a one-of-a-kind nonfiction portrait that was brought to life with the help of a remarkable crew of friends, including Jim Jarmusch and Tom DiCillo, and that features on-screen appearances by fellow artists of Burroughs’s including Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke, Patti Smith, and Terry Southern.

 

 

The Film:

Few writers are as reclusive as was William S Burroughs, yet few documentarians get as close to their subjects as this. Burroughs: the Movie is an extraordinarily intimate portrait of the man and his work, yet we have to ask, why did the writer choose to give his time, over a five-year period, to a wide-eyed 24-year-old with no real filmmaking experience? For all the insight this film offers, for all its depth, it is a portrait created very much on Burroughs' terms, showing us only what he wants us to see. This makes it all the more fascinating.

Ambitious in a way few older directors would have risked, the film endeavours to take in the whole of its subject's life, from his childhood hanging out with his gardener to his descent into drug use and the gradually increasing isolation of his later years. Parts of it take sympathy for its subject to bizarre lengths, as when Allen Ginsberg argues that the wife Burroughs shot was using him to fulfill a death wish, but even in these moments, there's a warmth to it, a sense of real emotion rather than the recitation of old, dried-out ideas. Even Burroughs' own comments, delivered in his trademark sardonic tones, have a curious liveliness about them as if everything he ever experienced remained immediate.

Excerpt from Eye For Film located HERE

Released in 1983, Howard Brookner's documentary about William S. Burroughs was an expanded version of the director's 1978 senior thesis project at NYU. Burroughs gave Brookner his complete cooperation during the making of the film, and the result is a unique cinematic artifact, a wholly transparent visual biography of a literary giant. It might come as a surprise that a writer of Burroughs's stature would offer such unlimited access to a student filmmaker, given Burroughs's legendary status now as the patron saint of the Beats. But the film reminds us that in the early 1980s, his rediscovery in America was just underway, and it bears witness to this quiet renaissance. Brookner's inexperience is evident in the film's uncertain pacing and stilted editing, but his youthful enthusiasm for his subject and willingness to play with the documentary form, a mirror of the writer's own experimental style, mostly compensate for these shortcomings.

Excerpt from Slate Magazine located HERE

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Burroughs: The Movie, edited from 80-hours of interview footage, comes to Blu-ray from Criterion.  The image quality reflects the media used including 16mm film, 8mm film, VHS, video 8, and images of personal documents including letters, photos and writings. So the quality varies but the 1080P exports heavy grain and the inherent softness of the sources. This is dual-layered with a very high bitrate and we can guess that it is a solid representation of the film. It is in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and occasional colors do show some richness. They are no examples of depth. This Blu-ray does what we would want - a precise film-like facsimile of the source with all its limitations. It achieves this.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Criterion use a linear PCM mono at 1152 kbps (24-bit). It's purely a reflection of the original film taken from reel to reel and magnetic sound, cassette tapes etc. - flat with clear narration and dialogue - occasionally, authentically, scattered but exporting the film's sound audibly. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.

 

Extras :

Criterion stack their release with many excellent supplements - we get a new (2015) audio commentary by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who was a sound recordist on the film and it is extremely revealing discussing many interesting details of the author, Brookner and his own particuipation in the project. There is a 24-minute audio interview (excerpts) with director Howard Brookner from 1985, conducted by William S. Burroughs biographer Ted Morgan - author of Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs. We also get a new 1/4 hour interview with Brookner’s nephew, filmmaker Aaron Brookner, who oversaw the film’s restoration and over an hour's worth of Rare outtakes (New York - 20:22, Weapons - 14:04, Nova Connection - 8:13, Interviews - 15:34, Travel - 11:23) that include never before seen out-takes including those with Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, Brian Jones and Brion Gysin. There is almost a 1/2 hour's worth of footage from the 2014 New York Film Festival premiere of the film’s restoration, featuring a Q&A with Jarmusch, Aaron Brookner, filmmaker Tom DiCillo, and Burroughs’s friend and fellow writer James Grauerholz and a After two years of filming, director Howard Brookner brought inventor and photographer Robert E. Fulton III a trunkful of his William S. Burroughs footage to see if Fulton could edit his film. The result was a decidedly experimental twenty-three-minute cut. The director, however, was looking for a more narrative approach, so Fulton's edit was never used. That previously unseen cut of the film is presented here. The package has a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Luc Sante and collage artwork by artist Alison Mosshart.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I love Criterion bringing great documentaries, like this one, to Blu-ray. Burroughs: The Movie is certainly one of the more forthright and honest I can recall - and is the definitive film examination of the Naked Lunch author. If you have not seen it already - it is a very worthwhile investing the time - you will not be disappointed. The Criterion Blu-ray package offers the film in 1080P with plenty of valuable extras. I have to say this is very strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

December 8th, 2015

Coming to the UK on Criterion Blu-ray July 11th, 2016:


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
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Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

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Gary W. Tooze

 

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