Burroughs: The Movie

Synopsis: Burroughs: The Movie explores the life and times of controversial Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs, with an intimacy never before seen and never repeated. The film charts the development of Burroughs' unique literary style and his wildly unconventional life, including his travels from the American Midwest to North Africa and several personal tragedies. Burroughs: The Movie is the first and only feature length documentary to be made with and about Burroughs. The film was directed by the late Howard Brookner. It was begun in 1978 as Brookner's senior thesis at NYU film school and then expanded into a feature which was completed 5 years later in 1983. Sound was recorded by Jim Jarmusch and the film was shot by Tom DiCillo, fellow NYU classmates and both very close friends of Brookner's.
90 min

I'm very pleased tonight...

to introduce a man who,

in my opinion...

is the greatest living

writer in America.

Reading selections from

Naked Lunch and Nova Express...

in his first television

appearance ever...

here is Mr. William Burroughs!

Twilight's last gleamings.

SS America off Jersey coast.

Uh, ladies and gentlemen,

there is no cause for alarm.

We have a minor problem

in the boiler room...

but everything is now under -

- Sound effects of a nuclear blast.

The explosion splits the boat.

Dr. Benway, ship's doctor...

drunkenly added two inches

to a four-inch incision...

with one stroke of his scalpel.

"Perhaps the appendix is already out,

Doctor," the nurse said...

- peering dubiously over his shoulder.

"I saw a little scar."

"The appendix out?

I'm taking the appendix out!

What do you think I'm doing here?"

"Perhaps the appendix is

on the left side, Doctor.

That happens sometimes,

you know."

"Stop breathing down my neck!

I'm coming to that.

Don't you think

I know where an appendix is?

I studied appendectomy

in 1904 at Harvard."

He lifts the abdominal wall

and searches along the incision...

dropping ashes from his cigarette.

"And get me a new scalpel.

This one's got no edge to it."

- He thrusts a red fist at her.

The doctor reels back

and flattens against the wall...

a bloody scalpel clutched in one hand.

The patient slides

off the operating table,

spilling intestines across the floor.

Dr. Benway sweeps instruments,

cocaine and morphine into his satchel.

"Sew her up. I can't be expected

to work under such conditions."

Dr. Benway pushed through

a crowd at the rail...

and boarded the first lifeboat.

"Y'all all right?" he says,

seating himself among the women.

"I'm the doctor."

I remember one thing about him,

that he kept ferrets in his room.

He was the only Harvard student

that had ferrets as pets.

And I admit, I couldn't

imagine having such things...

but there was Bill

and there were the ferrets.

I didn't feel at all comfortable

with Bill.

My first thought was,

"Man, this guy's gotta be heat."

William is, like,

never sees anybody...

never goes out,

hates parties...

and-and lives a completely

enclosed - enclosed life, you know?

William would make a great prisoner.

You know?

I mean in solitary.

He, uh, bewilders me

just a little bit, even now.

There's no one more - He's

up there with the pope, you know?

You-You can't revere him enough,

you know?

He's one of the greatest minds

of our times, you know?

You wouldn't know sh*t

about Burroughs...

unless you knew him for a long time

and through various crises...

to see how he responded,

how he acted.

Well, Kerouac said

that Burroughs was...

the most intelligent man

in America.

I probably repeated that

a million times.

He's a hard guy to get into bed.

That's why I like him, I think.

I was born February 5, 1914,

in Saint Louis, Missouri.

As a young child, uh,

I wanted to be a writer...

and I wrote descriptions

of corn dances in New Mexico...

that were much praised

by my English teachers.

But it was many years...

before I came back to any -

even any attempts to write.

I thought that

they led very glamorous lives...

uh, living in Tangiers

and smoking hashish...

and sniffing cocaine in Mayfair.

It struck me as being

a very glamorous...

and easy and pleasant life.

Little did I know.

"When Kim was 15,

his father allowed him

to withdraw from the school...

because he was so unhappy there...

and so much disliked...

by the other boys and their parents.

'I don't want that boy

in the house again,'

said Colonel Greenfield.

'He looks like a sheep-killin' dog.'

'It is a walking corpse'...

said a Saint Louis

matron poisonously.

Years later,

Kim settled that account.

When informed of her death,

he said...

'Well, it isn't every corpse

that can walk. Hers can't.'"

"'The boy is rotten clear through,

and he stinks like a polecat'...

Judge Farris pontificated.

Now this was true.

When angered

or aroused or excited...

Kim flushed bright red...

and steamed off a rank,

ruttish animal smell.

'The child is not wholesome'...

said Mr. Kindhart

with his usual restraint.

Kim remembers

his father's last words.

'Stay out of churches, Son.

And don't ever let a priest near you

when you're dying.

All they got a key to is the sh*t house.

And swear to me you will never

wear a policeman's badge.'"

I never felt that I really belonged at all...

in the whole Saint Louis,

uh, social structure.

There was just

something wrong there.

Now there's -

This is, uh - Corner wall.

Now that's Dr. Senseney's old house.

It was his wife...

who said about me that

I looked like a walking corpse.

Uh, years later when I heard

that she had died, I said...

"It isn't every corpse that can walk.

Hers can't."

"I can divide my literary production

into sets.

Where, when and under

what circumstances produced.

The first set is a street of red brick houses...

with slate roofs, lawns in front

and large backyards.

The address is

4664 Pershing Avenue...

and the house is still there."

Do you wanna stroll over there?

You see -

You can see all the rooms.

See the little room

to the side there?

That was my father's study.

Nothing here but the smell of empty years.

How many years?

I can't be sure.

I remember a dream

of my childhood.

I am in a beautiful garden.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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