William S. Burroughs: A Man Within
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William S. Burroughs: A Man Within

USA, 2009, 90 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Biography / History, Documentary, Drugs / Addiction, Gay
Program: Documentary
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Yony Leyser

As director John Waters puts it in Yony Leyser’s long-awaited documentary, William S. Burroughs became famous “for all the things you were supposed to hide: He was gay; he was a junkie; he shot his wife.” William S. Burroughs: A Man Within examines the cultural forces and tragic biographical events that shaped The Naked Lunch author, while tracing the wide range of his influence from punk rock to performance art.

Burroughs’ education and pedigree set him apart from his Beat compatriots. He privately mourned the death of his wife, whom he shot in Mexico playing a drunken round of William Tell, and his estranged son, who died attempting to approximate his father’s former junkie lifestyle. Though he chaffed at being labeled a “gay revolutionary,” Burroughs’ writing envisioned queer sexuality as something far more subversive and unstable than mere identity politics.

Combining clips from Burroughs’ own experimental films, later home movies and interviews with a the writers’ close associates, friends, and admirers — among others, Waters, Thurston Moore, Diane DiPrima, James Grauerholz, Patti Smith and Genesis P-Orridge — A Man Within is both a stylistic testament to Burroughs’ incalculable effect on contemporary culture and a revealing portrait of the guarded, contradictory man behind the countercultural icon in the gray flannel suit.

This film is a Frameline Completion Fund recipient.

Text Voting Code: D332

Copresented by

San Francisco Film Society and 826 Valencia and Radar Productions



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