You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within

Docu does real justice to the Beat writer, gun nut and literary icon.

With:
With: William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Regina Weinreich, Patti Smith, Amiri Baraka, John Waters, Peter Weller, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge.

For a guy who always looked cadaverous, William S. Burroughs has been overripe for the kind of substantive, stylistically simpatico docu treatment he gets from helmer Yony Leyser, whose “William S. Burroughs: A Man Within” does real justice to the Beat writer, gun nut and literary icon. Specialty/arthouse release would seem a real possibility, especially in urban centers, and more especially New York.

Burroughs, heir to an adding-machine business and a family that lost its money, was Harvard-educated and conservative in his attire, and became famous before any of his peers, says director John Waters, “for all the things you were supposed to hide: He was gay; he was a junkie; he shot his wife … ” Burroughs was indeed a scandalous personality, but his literary works — such as “The Naked Lunch,” “Queer” and “Junkie” — have become landmarks of American literature. And as the movie shows us, his influences ranged from beatniks to punks, from rockers to poets to performance artists, and to the language itself: “Heavy metal,” “Blade Runner,” “Soft Machine” and “Steely Dan” were all coined by Burroughs. “He was like another kind of Bible,” says old friend Patti Smith.

He was also an inhabitant of the American drug culture when there really wasn’t one, and really did shoot his wife: Drunk and doing a William Tell, he put a bullet through Joan Vollmer’s head in Mexico. Although Burroughs’ public persona was dour, his public voice a drone, and his hat and velvet collars in direct sartorial contradiction of the happy hippie-ish stylings of, say, his good friend Allen Ginsberg, Burroughs mourned. And he admitted that the shooting (for which he never served serious time) made him the writer he was.

Leyser is clearly a Burroughs acolyte, and he taps into the man’s sensibility: The abstract stop-motion animation by Aimee Goguen and Dillon Markey creates aptly crazy interludes between interviews and archival bits, which include avant-garde movies Burroughs made when was a relative youth (even if he never quite looked like one). There is a wealth of anecdotal material. Like his subject, Leyser strives to disengage from the conventional, while still being lucid. He succeeds admirably.

Animation and music are excellent in an otherwise fine production package.

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within

Production: A Yonilizer Prods. and BulletProof Film presentation. (International sales: Submarine, New York.) Produced by Yony Leyser. Co-producers, Carmine Cervi, Ilko Davidov. Directed, written by Yony Leyser.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Eric Burton; editor, Ilko Davidov; music, Lee Ranaldo, Thurston Moore; sound, Andy Wenrich, Dustin Camilleri; animation, Aimee Goguen, Dillon Markey; associate producer, Scott Crary. Reviewed at Slamdance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 26, 2010. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Regina Weinreich, Patti Smith, Amiri Baraka, John Waters, Peter Weller, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge.

More Film

  • ‘S Durga’, ‘Nude’ Approved After Indian

    ‘S Durga’, ‘Nude’ Approved After Indian Censor Changes Tack

    For a guy who always looked cadaverous, William S. Burroughs has been overripe for the kind of substantive, stylistically simpatico docu treatment he gets from helmer Yony Leyser, whose “William S. Burroughs: A Man Within” does real justice to the Beat writer, gun nut and literary icon. Specialty/arthouse release would seem a real possibility, especially […]

  • My Brother's Name Is Robert and

    Berlin Film Review: 'My Brother's Name is Robert and He is an Idiot'

    For a guy who always looked cadaverous, William S. Burroughs has been overripe for the kind of substantive, stylistically simpatico docu treatment he gets from helmer Yony Leyser, whose “William S. Burroughs: A Man Within” does real justice to the Beat writer, gun nut and literary icon. Specialty/arthouse release would seem a real possibility, especially […]

  • Berlinale -- 2018 -- 'Black Port'

    Iceland's 'Black Port' Wins Series Mania Award at CoPro Series Event

    For a guy who always looked cadaverous, William S. Burroughs has been overripe for the kind of substantive, stylistically simpatico docu treatment he gets from helmer Yony Leyser, whose “William S. Burroughs: A Man Within” does real justice to the Beat writer, gun nut and literary icon. Specialty/arthouse release would seem a real possibility, especially […]

  • Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny,

    Film Review: 'Annihilation'

    For a guy who always looked cadaverous, William S. Burroughs has been overripe for the kind of substantive, stylistically simpatico docu treatment he gets from helmer Yony Leyser, whose “William S. Burroughs: A Man Within” does real justice to the Beat writer, gun nut and literary icon. Specialty/arthouse release would seem a real possibility, especially […]

  • Paolo Virzi's 'Notti Magiche' Lures EFM

    Paolo Virzi's 'Notti Magiche' Lures EFM Buyers (EXCLUSIVE)

    For a guy who always looked cadaverous, William S. Burroughs has been overripe for the kind of substantive, stylistically simpatico docu treatment he gets from helmer Yony Leyser, whose “William S. Burroughs: A Man Within” does real justice to the Beat writer, gun nut and literary icon. Specialty/arthouse release would seem a real possibility, especially […]

  • Berlin: Director Philip Groening Examines Magical

    Berlin: Director Philip Groening Examines Magical Time of Youth in 'Brother'

    For a guy who always looked cadaverous, William S. Burroughs has been overripe for the kind of substantive, stylistically simpatico docu treatment he gets from helmer Yony Leyser, whose “William S. Burroughs: A Man Within” does real justice to the Beat writer, gun nut and literary icon. Specialty/arthouse release would seem a real possibility, especially […]

  • IN DEN GÄNGEN (R: Thomas Stuber);

    Berlin Profile: 'In the Aisles' Director Thomas Stuber Talks About the Movie's Outsiders

    For a guy who always looked cadaverous, William S. Burroughs has been overripe for the kind of substantive, stylistically simpatico docu treatment he gets from helmer Yony Leyser, whose “William S. Burroughs: A Man Within” does real justice to the Beat writer, gun nut and literary icon. Specialty/arthouse release would seem a real possibility, especially […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content