Rowland S.Howard, Genevieve Mc Guckin, Nick Cave,
Directed by Richard Lowenstein, Lynn -Maree Milburn.
An intriguing documentary even for those who know nothing of its subject, musician and composer, Rowland S. Howard who died in 2009 but who was interested in this film being made and gave interviews in the period before his death. The film also incorporates a great deal of archival footage as well as performances of many of his songs.
Richard Lowenstein made the feature film Dogs in Space in 1986, chronicling the lives in the rather chaotic music scene (and drugs) in Melbourne’s inner-city Richmond in the 1970s. Michael Hutchence played the central role. Lowenstein and his co-director and editor Lynn- Maree Milburn made further documentaries on Australian bands.
Interviewees express their admiration for Howard’s musical talents, his gift for lyrics, his performance. He seemed an unlikely musical hero when he was very young, rather weedy, but soon emerged as someone to be reckoned with (and some, including Nick Cave, reckoned with him).
The film does not try to trace a chronological path of his career, but that emerges: his bands in Australia, his going overseas and career in London, on the continent (including involvement with Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire with Wenders speaking warmly of him in the film), his return home, his marriage, his illness.
Genevieve Mc Guckin, who was his companion for many years, collaborated on this film and contributes a great deal of biographical information as well as commenting on the period and how it affected Howard and his friends (including drugs). For a time, Howard was married and there is testimony from his stepson, putting more of a human face on Howard.
As a documentary, there is enough information about Rowland S. Howard and his career for audiences to have a feel for and some understanding of his life within the decades of his career. There is enough testimony, from members of his band, to international commentators, to friends and family (especially his brother, who worked with him, and his sister) to appreciate the complexities of Howard’s life. And there is enough music to indicate his development over the decades, and, with the music videos reminding the audience of the different styles of the times, what he contributed.
One of his songs was Autoluminescent, a great word to describe Howard’s self revelation through his songs.