William S. Burroughs: A Man Within

Synopsis: 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,
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Yony Leyser
Production: Oscilloscope Pictures
  1 win.
Rotten Tomatoes:
87 min

[ William S. Burroughs ]

"Death smells."

I mean, death

has a special smell...

over and above the smell

of cyanide, cordite, blood,

carrion or burnt flesh.

It's a gray smell.

It stops the heart

and cuts off the breath.

Smell of the empty body.

Smell of field hospitals

and gangrene.

Now, folks, if you'll just

care to step this way.

You are about to witness...

"the complete, all-American

deanxietized man."

[ Man Narrating ]

William Seward Burroughs,

heir to the Burroughs

Adding Machine Company

founded by his grandfather,

was born in 1914

in St. Louis, Missouri.

After graduating

from Harvard University

and traveling Europe,

he moved to New York City,

where he met his future wife,

Joan Vollmer,

and fell in company with

Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

Experimenting with new forms

of literature as well as drugs,

the three friends

formed the vanguard

of a cultural phenomenon...

that would come to be known

as the Beat Generation.

"Thanksgiving Day,

November 28, 1986."

Thanks for the wild turkey

and passenger pigeons...

destined to be shit out

through wholesome American guts.

Thanks for a continent

to despoil and poison.

Thanks for Indians to provide

a modicum of challenge...

and danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison

to kill and skin,

leaving the carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties

on wolves and coyotes.

Thanks for

the American dream...

to vulgarize and falsify...

"until the bare lies

shine through."

[ John Waters ] In the '50s,

anything opened up

a good avenue to thinking

because it was...

People talk about the '50s,

they see Happy Days

and they think it was fun.

It was horrible, the '50s.

It was the most terrible time.

It was the first memory I had,

and it was of you had to be

exactly like everybody else.

The Beat Generation

was crushing that.

It was an attempt

to bust out of that, man.

All of this was a big

rap on the knuckles...

of mainstream, white, staid,

pool-in-the-backyard America.

[ Burroughs ] "Kid",

what are you doing over there

with the n*ggers and the apes?

Why don't you straighten out

and act like a white man?

After all, they're

only human cattle.

You know that yourself.

"I hate to see a bright young man

f*ck up and get off

on the wrong track."

So what was the Beat Movement?

It was real.

The Beat Movement...

Well, of course it was.

It underwent many changes.

In the '60s, it became

quite political.


But as I've always said,

it's more sociological

than a literary phenomenon.

It was a sociological movement

of worldwide importance.


worldwide importance.

A cultural revolution,

you might say.


So I would characterize it

as a spiritual liberation

movement actually...

like women's lib, black lib,

spirit lib or spiritual lib...

that began in the '40s.

First took shape

as a literary movement...

with a production of a number

of notable utterances.

Allen Ginsberg's

first publication...

was Howl.

It was published in 1956.

In 1957, Jack Kerouac's

On The Road.

And in 1959, Naked Lunch

by William Burroughs.

These three books came out.

[ Waters ]

Beatniks were big.

Overnight, it was a huge...

Like a hula hoop.

Much to their embarrassment,

I think.

Because it started out pretty

much in North Beach and stuff,

like poets and...

So once it became so big

in the media, they were

embarrassed by that term.

[ Amiri Baraka ]

All of those poets,

they couldn't fit what

the stereotype of Beat was.

That was a media hype

to sell papers.

And they pimped that, boy.

They pimped that bad boy,

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Submitted on August 05, 2018


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