William S. Burroughs: A Man Within

Sat, June 5, 2010, 6pm

“I bring not peace, but a sword!” shouts William S. Burroughs in A MAN WITHIN. The legendary writer and artist also carried, as director Yony Leyser’s deeply engaging documentary shows, an untold number of shotguns, pistols, knives and other weapons, both real and rhetorical. Through interviews with friends, lovers and colleagues, both famous (Patti Smith, Gus Van Sant, John Waters) and less so (his “gun handler” is here, as well as his “snake dealer”), A MAN WITHIN pieces together a poignant, scrupulous portrait of an intensely complicated and brilliant artist. Here was a man who chronicled the lives of addicts, decidedly long before it was “chic” to do so; who wrote the seminal book Queer while disavowing any sense of gay identity; who drunkenly killed his wife with a pistol during a game of William Tell; and whose Naked Lunch provoked the last major case of literary censorship in the United States.

A legend whose influence extends from the Beats to the punks and beyond, Burroughs emerges as an iconoclast both decades ahead of his time and embodying the most extreme contradictions of contemporary American culture. Featuring music by Sonic Youth, A MAN WITHIN serves as a comprehensive survey of an utterly fearless and indomitable artist, one who uncovered – yet never acceded to – the underlying, unspoken presumptions of his political, social and artistic milieus. – Dan Frazier

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within: Dir Yony Leyser 2009 USA 90 min.

Community Partners: Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and Literary Arts