Friday, 9 July 2010
William S. Burroughs: A Man Within
"William S. Burroughs: A Man Within does real justice to the Beat writer, gun nut and literary icon" Variety
William S Burroughs: A Man Within
As part of its First Look program this September, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) will screen documentary Wiliam S. Burroughs: A Man Within (2010).
Looking beyond the urban myths that surrounded American writer and cultural icon William S. Burroughs during his life, this extremely personal documentary breaks through the surface of his brilliant and troubled world to create a touching portrait of one of the greatest authors of all time.
Born in St Louis in 1914 and the heir of the Burroughs' adding machine estate, William S. Burroughs struggled throughout his life with addiction, control systems and relationships. As filmmaker John Waters says in the film "He was the first person who was famous for things you were supposed to hide - he was gay, he was a junkie, he didn't look handsome, he shot his wife, he wrote poetry about assholes and heroin. He was not easy to like."
Burroughs was one of the first to cross the dangerous boundaries of queer and drug culture in the 1950s, and write about his experiences. His most famous novel, Naked Lunch, was one of the last books to be banned by the U.S. government, until the courts eventually overturned their decision in 1966, ruling that the book had important social value. It remains one of the most recognized literary works of the 20th century and launched Burroughs' literary star in 1959.
Eventually he was hailed the godfather of "the Beats" and influenced artists for generations to come. Burroughs was also adopted as an icon of the burgeoning punk scene in the late 1970s.
Burroughs died at the age of 83 in August of 1997 from complications after a heart attack (amazingly only four months after lifelong friend Allen Ginsberg passed away) and was buried in the same place as his birth, St. Louis, USA.
Wiliam S. Burroughs: A Man Within is a true labour of love for director Yony Leyser who traveled around America on and off for several years, grabbing interviews on a shoestring budget. Over four years, with help from Burroughs' editor and executor James Grauerholz, Leyser has interviewed more than 100 friends, associates, and admirers of the writer, including Patti Smith, John Waters, Gus Van Sant, Iggy Pop, Laurie Anderson, Jello Biafra, Amiri Baraka, and even a poisonous snake collector named Dean Ripa, as well as many others. Through these interviews we see Burroughs as they saw him - the person underneath the junky, the outlaw and the hardman.
The film also features never before seen footage and photos of Burroughs and narration by actor Peter Weller who played the Burrough surrogate William Lee in David Cronenberg's film of Naked Lunch (1991).
Film Programmer Kristy Matheson says, "There are countless films about Burroughs but rarely are they as insightful and well researched as this. Fresh, stylistically creative and truly indebted to its subject, William S. Burroughs: A Man Within proves that there is still more to know about this legendary figurehead of counterculture and literary rebellion."
Leyser is a 25 year-old filmmaker, photographer and writer from Chicago, Illinois, who started making films when he was 16. After moving to Lawrence, Kansas, he began his passionate film on Burroughs after being kicked out of film school. His previous work has documented a utopian transgender commune in Tennessee, an anarchist village in Copenhagen, and Europe's largest squat.
William S. Burroughs: A Man Within plays as part of ACMI's First Look program from Thursday 2 to Sunday 5 September. For sessions details please visit: http://www.acmi.net.au/
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