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William S. Burroughs: A Man Within 

Where did Steely Dan get its name? From William S. Burroughs.

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My favorite thing about author William S. Burroughs would have to be his speaking voice. His angry, whiny, slow growl always mesmerized me, and I could listen to him talk for hours. I loved it when he showed up in music, and his cameo in Drugstore Cowboy is a classic.

This documentary includes much footage of Burroughs reading from his works — or simply sitting in a car talking about guns and drugs. Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, Iggy Pop, Thurston Moore and John Waters all offer their perspectives on the man’s interesting life.

The movie devotes time to some of the crazier days, including his alleged accidental killing of his wife during a William Tell-like stunt. There’s information on his musical collaborations and the filming of Naked Lunch by David Cronenberg. It also touches upon the short and sad life of Billy, Burroughs’ troubled son.

As the film points out, Burroughs was also a visual artist (including “shotgun” art, where he would shoot spray cans), something he got a little more into toward the end of his life. Included are some interesting photos of Burroughs checking out his own art exhibit along with Leonardo DiCaprio and Dennis Hopper.

The film contains some of the last footage of Burroughs sitting with pal Allen Ginsberg (who died just a few months before him), the last words he scribbled in his journal and a peaceful shot of him resting in his coffin. I wasn’t aware that he had found a lot of peace and love in his final year. It’s good to know he was feeling mellow.

If you are a Burroughs fan, A Man Within has obvious appeal. For those unaware of his influence on literature and art, get cracking and check this one out. He might not be the most lovable artist to have walked the earth, but he was fascinating.

Special features include deleted scenes, home movies and a Q&A with director Yony Leyser. The soundtrack includes music from Sonic Youth and Patti Smith — just another reason to watch A Man Within.

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