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William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (2010)

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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 756 users   Metascore: 63/100
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William S. Burroughs: featuring never before seen footage as well as exclusive interviews with his closest friends and colleagues. Born the heir of the Burroughs' adding machine estate, he ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Fred Aldrich ...
Himself
...
Herself
Amiri Baraka ...
Himself
Jello Biafra ...
Himself
Victor Bockris ...
(archive footage)
...
Himself (archive footage)
Harold Chapman
...
Himself
Dennis M. Dailey ...
(as Dr. Dennis M. Dailey)
Diane DiPrima ...
Herself
Marcus Ewert
...
Herself - Host
...
(archive footage)
John Giorno
James Grauerholz ...
(archive footage)
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Storyline

William S. Burroughs: featuring never before seen footage as well as exclusive interviews with his closest friends and colleagues. Born the heir of the Burroughs' adding machine estate, he struggled throughout his life with addiction, control systems, and self. He was forced to deal with the tragedy of killing his wife and the repercussions of neglecting his son. His novel, Naked Lunch, was one of the last books to be banned by the U.S. government. Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer testified on behalf of the book. The courts eventually overturned their decision in 1966, ruling that the book had an important social value. It remains one of the most recognized literary works of the 20th century. William Burroughs was one of the first to cross the dangerous boundaries of queer and drug culture in the 1950s, and write about his experiences. Eventually he was hailed the godfather of the beat generation and influenced artists for generations to come. However, his friends were left wondering,... Written by Yony Leyser

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Documentary

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Release Date:

12 December 2010 (Chile)  »

Also Known As:

William S. Burroughs: O anthropos mesa tou  »

Box Office

Budget:

$160,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$6,510 (USA) (19 November 2010)

Gross:

$46,380 (USA) (4 February 2011)
 »

Company Credits

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1 / (high definition)
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User Reviews

 
The Unknowable Mr. Burroughs
17 April 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Expectations often drive us. The expectation of full-boat tickets to film festivals like the one recently in Sarasota is that you get to go where you please and when. Once there, you have expectations that some films, based on your predilections, will entice you more than others. Such was the case for my anticipation of the William S Burroughs documentary that I had heard nothing about before it showing up in the SFF playbill. This guy was at least an anti-hero to any wierdster like myself who matured from the late 1950's to the early 1970's. But how to present such a life of what may be one of the most unrepresentable individuals from the 20th Century.

And from a first time filmmaker who was likely enjoying his Captain Crunch the morning the world learned of this infamous man's passing. How could Yony Leyser possibly know and appreciate an at best unknowable enigma from the weird subdivision in boomer-town's hall of fame.

What you get, fortunately, is a film that may tear through the fabric of any experienced viewers strategies on figuring out what beguiles them while viewing. Burroughs was so unpurposely misunderstood by default that he fits into a category of his own unconscious making. At best, I expected, in Burroughs' own words from the film, an 'unprecise' 'approximation' of the man whose infamy, in so many ways, took on a mass far, if not infinitely, greater than the addicted, queer, paranoid, but always genteel man he may have been … maybe.

In presentation, the film explodes past expectations of standard documentary forms like some kind of mutation that I think Burroughs would have loved. The formula, whatever it may be, affects in ways that award winning Alex Gibney did not capture nearly as evocatively in his screed on another modern hipster icon of excess, Hunter S Thompson. Throughout, the style contests your expectations in expansive ways you likely have not experienced. The always artistic, multi-textural presentation cannot possibly, as Burroughs life, be seen in one viewing. This is not unique in documentaries. What may be unique, however, is that other than those IMAX explorations of nature and beyond, the film may be the one documentary that demands to be seen in as big a venue as possible so you may best swim in its excesses and nuances. If the film gets enough attention beyond festivals to be considered award worthy, they may have to invent a category.

In judgment, it has that feel of a discovery found on a fairly long trail of enticing experiences with an array of individuals who had the privilege of hanging with the man for any length of time. What you may be witnessing is an education similar to Candide's travels with the Dr. Pangloss that Burroughs was to so many. What better possible vision of Burrough's world could there be! In the end, one is left with the ultimate contradiction of that dead pan voice from the man in his perennial three piece evoking provoking prose that leaves vapor trails in the aether of your mind in those places where it may resonate for days, confounding.

As is should be. As it will be. As it is.

Thank you, Mr. Leyser for dedicating five years of your young life to this adventure. It was well worth it.


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