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One Night at The Aristo

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One Night at The Aristo

I very much enjoyed One Night at The Aristo. I thought it explored its ideas very intelligently without being a slavish adhesion to the original story. I love the way you are interpreting these Beat texts, and I like the way you are not using the obvious ones. It's good work. – Barry Miles

I received the DVD and after seeing it once, I hit the replay button and watched it again. One Night At the Aristo is a wonderful interpretation of Burroughs' story. Needless to say, you've given it your own twists, but still managed to keep the feel of Burroughs' work and words. After having recently seen Walter Salles' On The Road, this was a welcome and refreshing return to the spirit of the Beat Generation. I only wish Bill was still around to see it, I think he would approve. The atmosphere of Tangier is captured magnificently and your actor strikes just the right chord. Usually dark films (and I mean literally dark) bother me, but in your version the darkness seemed more than appropriate. I congratulate you on your outstanding work. – Bill Morgan

Saunders creates the Moroccan bar and the echoes Burroughsian world so weird and yet so real. Insect like bartenders, the labyrinth like alleys of Tangier. The beautiful girl loved from afar, lost, dead, coming back to haunt our pianist druggie, who wears a leather contraption on his hand to enable him to hit the right notes as he plays nightly in that interzone bar. This Aristo Hotel film continues the Saunders fascination with the Beats. He is building and building and producing good things on a next to nothing budget. Another aspect I like is the point he works with a regular ensemble, Philip Bulcock as the pianist and Kasia Halpin as the girl have featured in his films previously. Someone, somewhere give Saunders a shedload of money and let him fly. Beat fans everywhere, see this film. - Beat Scene Magazine

In One Night At The Aristo, inspired by an early short-story by William S. Burroughs, which was in turn based on a real incident in the life of the author, film-maker Nic Saunders has managed the artful juggling-act of creating a film which is both accessible to a general audience and yet at the same time contains a number of coded details and hidden references to delight even the most trainspotterish Burroughs aficionado.
In 1940, beside himself over an infatuation with a woefully inappropriate love-object – a young man called Jack Anderson, who is described as good looking but vacuous, and mostly straight – Burroughs hit upon the desperate measure of cutting off the tip of his little finger with a pair of poultry shears, thinking to present it as a token of his undying affection. Instead, he describes how “my analyst, the lousy bastard, shanghaied me into a nuthouse” – New York’s notorious Bellevue – until his parents have him transferred to a more salubrious private hospital. In the early 1950s he would write an account of what he called his “Van Gogh kick” in a short story called The Finger. The dry, matter-of-fact style in many ways prefigures the voice he would later find for his first novel, Junky, but with the significant alteration of one key detail: still ambiguous about his homosexuality at the time of writing, Burroughs changed the unrequited love-object to “She” – hoping also to hide it from his long-suffering parents. The Finger, which remained unpublished until it was included in a collection of his early work, Interzone, in 1988, is the inspiration for this 23 minute film – which, incidentally, takes its title from the name of the hotel Burroughs was staying in at the time of the poultry shears incident – in which Nic Saunders both conjures and pays homage to the World of William S. Burroughs.
Our narrator-cum-protagonist, The Pianist, is dressed in the crumpled white linen suit and black preacher’s hat of Burroughs as he appears in Anthony Balch’s short clip William Buys A Parrot – The lamp in the corner of his lonely room casts strange Dream machine-like shadows – The bug-headed bartender is called Kiki, a nod to Burroughs’ Tangier street-boy amigo – The Pianist plays along with a bluesy, jazz-inflected groove that creates just the right sort of sleazy, smoky, will-this-night-never-end vibe – And after being cautioned “Don’t let The Ugly Spirit win!” there is even a glimpse of possibly a Happy Ending, The Pianist with The Finger restored ...
Actual locations are used to great effect, with much of the film being shot in Tangier ... atmospheric sequences of The Pianist’s lonely nocturnal wanderings through alleys and archways conjuring simultaneously both the faded and grainy imagery of the experimental films Balch shot of Burroughs in the early 60s, also an eerie, shadowy Arabic Elsewhere ... a flashback to London and we are outside Dalmeny Court, Duke Street – home to Burroughs for the best part of a decade ... a blink-and-you-miss-it detail, almost, but it’s there – All of which manages to convey the dream-like ‘Interzone’ of the author’s hallucinatory, transformed-and-transforming imagination so vividly that I’m sure Burroughs himself would recognise it. Highly recommended. – Matthew Levi Stevens, author of several books on William S Burroughs

It's a beautiful film, and a wonderful version of Burroughs' important story. You've RE-CUT Burroughs' STORY OF THE CUT and made it something different, your own, while at the same time revealing the workings of the original scenario/routine... The film is visually striking and seductive - those dark Tangier tracking shots through the alleys, the reds of the nightclub set-up, the silvery dream projections. The whole film plays beautifully, but with switches and detours which interconnect and circle back finally to the vital connection between the cutting of the finger and the telling of the story (or stories) about 'THAT' cut - the possibility of writing THAT story and others) and redemption THROUGH WRITING. The delivery of the story/routine/confession by Philip Bulcock is very, very nicely done. What can I say? I love it. Congratulations on a wonderful short film. – Ian MacFadyen, author of several books on William S Burroughs

Nic Saunders' One Night at the Aristo is not so much a "version" of William Burroughs' story as it is an imaginative interchange in which elements of Burroughs' piece mingle with elements of Saunders' filmmaking. It is an open field in which a kind of poetic creativity can happen. It is neither wholly Burroughs nor wholly Saunders but a fascinating picture book of one man's psyche as it encounters another's. It is an extraordinary in between which holds our attention as it whirls between fantasy and reality, film and writing, "truth" and "fiction". It is eerie, scary, haunted, even at times comic. The film deliberately plays Burroughs' mad (albeit autobiographical) story, his hugely paranoid mythology, his rampant sexuality against our knowledge of film - particularly American films, particularly American films noir, with their "darkness" and their jazz. One remembers Jean-Paul Belmondo saying "Bogie" in Breathless; this entire film says "Bogie" - as well as Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak, Michael Curtiz, John Alton, Edgar G. Ulmer, Billy Wilder, Jules Dassin, Nicholas Ray, etc. Longing and disaster are at its heart. – Jack Foley, Poet and Broadcaster

I'm very impressed – Gary Walkow, Sundance winning director

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