William S. Burroughs: A Man Within

23Feb11

The documentary on Burroughs’ life that everyone’s been talking about for a while now just aired on PBS. I wish it was a little longer. With interviews from several of his former partners and friends, it painted the man as a real human being. I think it’s no secret that Burroughs was not overly emotional and that his material is hard to get into. But the documentary painted a complete picture of him within the confines of about an hour. It traced his St. Louis childhood (I never knew it was a housekeeper who introduced him to morphine) up ’til the deaths of both his wife and later his son, and into his later years in Lawrence. It did it mostly with interviews of those who knew him (Patti Smith, James Grauerholz, Peter Weller, John Waters, and many others), and with words from Burroughs, himself. No heavy-handed narration. And very cool footage, mostly of Burroughs at home.

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