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William S. Burroughs: A Man Within2010

  • 4.0
Featuring never-before-seen archival footage of Burroughs, as well as exclusive interviews with colleagues and confidants including John Waters, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Gus Van Sant, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Sonic Youth, Laurie Anderson, Amiri Baraka, Jello Biafra and David Cronenberg, WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS: A MAN WITHIN is a probing, yet loving look at the man whose works at once savaged conservative ideals, spawned countercultural movements and reconfigured 20th century culture. The film is narrated by Peter Weller, with a soundtrack by Patti Smith and Sonic Youth. Burroughs was one of the first writers to break the boundaries of queer and drug culture in the 1950s. His novel "Naked Lunch" is one of the most recognized and respected literary works of the 20th century and has influenced generations of artists. The intimate documentary breaks the surface of the troubled and brilliant world of one of the greatest authors of all time.

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3 members like this review

"Many will call William Burroughs a saint. I think he would like that!" So many years later, it is clear that Burroughs was a futurist in his own day. Not only a social commentator, but an artist of the alien and disaffected. He wanted it that way and made sure his life was that way. It is fascinating to see that his last words are a tribute to love as the ultimate tranquilizer. Right on, Pope of Dope! Hail St. William Burroughs!

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top reviewer

Member Reviews (4)

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top reviewer

I really find certain people interviewed in this film to be completely narcissistic and annoying . . . . I won't name names but they're the ones who have made a career out of name dropping in their poetry, prose and lyrics . .. one singer in particular, who has a hipper-than-thou stance. I had a friend who worshipped her, went to give her a praise and a gift at a book signing and was completely treated with condescension by this supposedly "cool" celebrity. Then I met a blue blood young writer who was being funded and promoted by this same singer---the young writer was the last person who needed help, which made me suspect the singer was really the one gaining from the partnership. There was some info on Burroughs in this, but I didn't find it very enlightening and the film did not really help me get a sense of who Burroughs was. Just as the book Edie is more revealing of the narcissism of the Warhol crowd than Edie Sedgwick, so too this film is shows really the banality of some of those artists/musicians who have "made" it.

3 members like this review
94514.small
top reviewer

"Many will call William Burroughs a saint. I think he would like that!" So many years later, it is clear that Burroughs was a futurist in his own day. Not only a social commentator, but an artist of the alien and disaffected. He wanted it that way and made sure his life was that way. It is fascinating to see that his last words are a tribute to love as the ultimate tranquilizer. Right on, Pope of Dope! Hail St. William Burroughs!

3 members like this review
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top reviewer

Interesting but sometimes frustrating portrait of Burroughs. For me, too much time (15-20 minutes!) was spent on talking heads going on about whether Burroughs ever really loved anyone and how he Coped With Being Alone (to the point of being maudlin). At the end of that sequence, I was thinking "no wonder he preferred cats."

The controversy over his wife's death is given quite a bit of time and, while it's certainly important to know about it, the interpretation most flattering to Burroughs is really pushed at the viewer. While I lean toward that interpretation myself, I wonder what Burroughs himself would have thought of the treatment.

But it's still worth watching. Elements of the man and his work come out at you, skillfully woven into the film. There are plenty of clips of Burroughs reading from his work and talking with various people (including Ginsberg). Music and animation set the scene nicely too. The anecdote about Percodan about halfway through (after the 15-minute slog about Luv) is worth waiting for - and it's probably not what you'll expect. Casual Burroughs fans like me will get quite a bit out of this film.

2 members like this review

I recommend Josephy's review here on Fandor.