Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for William S Burroughs: The Man Within


USA 2010
Running Length: 87 minutes
Cast: Wiliam S Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, John Waters, Peter Weller
Director:  Yony Leyser
Cinematography: Eric Burton

Many people see Burroughs as one of the darkest and greatest satirists of the 20th century.  His work is twisted, comic in the blackest possible way, and a damning condemnation of American culture in the mid 20th century.  This film explores the man behind such iconic volumes as Junky and Naked Lunch.

Born into a wealthy Midwestern family, Burroughs exemplifies the American outlaw tradition.  He was a homosexual at a time when homosexuality was both illegal and unspoken.  He was a junkie for most of his adult life and unrepentant about it.  His fascination with firearms led to the accidental shooting of his wife, but this did not dissuade him from owning and using guns for the rest of his life.

He was a poster boy for many movements, from the beat generation to punk, and remains an idol to a diverse range of people from all walks of life.  This film, compact at 87 minutes, wastes no time in painting the man as a kind of mad genius, someone so ahead of his time he could never hope to fit in.  I came away with an overwhelming sense of sadness.  While many admire him, it appears that Burroughs never managed to get close enough to anyone to forge a significant and loving relationship, and it was not until near his death that he even acknowledged the importance of having love in his life.


  1. Honestly, he sounds like a monster. It's awfully easy to criticize society (which sucks in countless ways no matter what the decade), but it's a lot harder to try to come up with ways to change it for the better, or at least to be a compassionate, admirable person and set a good example.

  2. I was JUST discussing naked Lunch with a fellow blogger.never heard of this flick, glad I saw this post! :-)

  3. I wasn't all that impressed with Naked Lunch.

  4. I really want to see this film. I don't know a lot about him.

  5. I haven't read Naked Truth or seen the movie. The books seems a little sound too. Interesting post.

  6. I met Burroughs in 1995 and interviewed him at his home in Lawrence, Kansas. It was a scary experience, as we had no idea what would happen. Read about it here: