Customer Reviews: William S. Burroughs: A Man Within
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4.3 out of 5 stars16
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on February 1, 2012
This documentary definitely focuses on Burrough's sexuality more than any other I've seen, with chat about who he had crushes on & who had crushes on him. And I know plenty who found that objectionable, as who cares if he was gay, he's a true original and icon as a writer. But frankly, that concern is really just a wincing knee-jerk homophobia from the very non-gay audience Burroughs was generally interested in writing for. As in truth, he more than most really WAS more deeply influenced by his sexuality in the formation of the whats & whys of all he wrote.

Being an 'outcast' concerned with 'otherness' (ie, NOT the straight & narrow path) and an interest in 'marginalized' beinghood (even 'alien') & unusual sexual practices IS ALL BURROUGHS...the man within, you might say. And yes, resultant of having no represented place in society growing up, and for him, well into adulthood. Find me one song on the radio that sings of same sex love (no, not 'Lola' by The Kinks), and maybe you can refute that, even today, the stigmas are strong. But he turned stigmatization into an artform. Or you might say, he took his poison & transformed it into the body of work we've now gained from him.

In any case, I've seen a lot of Burroughs, including the Commissioner of Sewers & Towers Open Fire, as well as owning some of his talkie CDs like Dead City Radio, and sure this film borrows plenty of footage from these, which 'real fans' would have already had exposure to. But I take it real fans don't mind seeing clips of those again & actually enjoy it quite a bit. I think this was a very cool documentary with some personal tidbits, both from stories told & home videos shown, which were quite rewarding.
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VINE VOICEon March 10, 2011
Previously unseen archival footage enhances this probing but affectionate look at William S. Burroughs ("Naked Lunch"), one of the first writers to break the social barriers of queer and drug culture. Burroughs thrashed conservative values and triggered counterculture movements. The soundtrack is by Patti Smith and Sonic Youth. Peter Weller narrates with a bemused detachment. This sharp documentary delves below the surface of a troubled, brilliant and desperately sane author whose influence remains a force.
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on November 15, 2012
A fresh look into the life and work of this controversial personality. The film avoided too much verbosity and sensationalism. Somehow I felt there was a sense of measure, some unspoken rule of a documentary director. Burroughs' connections to musicians, poets and other cultural icons was most telling and informative. Definitely worth watching!
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on June 2, 2013
I really enjoyed "A Man Within". I learned a great deal about William S. Burroughs that I had not known from just the reading of his books. Iggy Pop and John Waters provided very interesting insights. I recommend this movie to any fan of Burroughs.
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on October 21, 2013
Burroughs would probably have hated this film.
I think it makes him look like a 'lost', 'soft', 'homosexual' 'alien', and not a writer; who he was in total.
I don't know why there was a hugely disproportionate amount of his personal life portrayed over far more important issued such as his writing? His important work? The BBC documentary was much better.

It's unfortunate this was the most popular film made about the man, an with what could have been with all the access they had, because it seems to have no grasp on any of his most powerful ideas... it's just a series of anecdotes, and usually irrelevant ones.

It's a blinkered adaptation of his life in TOTAL (are you kidding?). I think it says more about the director, to drag a great dead writer into his own patch of limelight, than about William S. Burroughs, one of the greatest American Writers of the 20th century.

Watch the BBC documentary if you want to see a better documentary. Or else get his books, listen to his readings and lectures, read his favourite authors, like Denton Welch.
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on October 18, 2011
A good film, well worth seeing if you have any real interest in WSB. The film does a good job at rebalancing some aspects of his life that he is perhaps more notorious for (his drug use for example). There's a lot of deserved respect here. And we do learn quite a bit about WSB.

It's a shame that there's not more archive footage of Bill himself telling his story (who really cares what Jello Biafra thinks?) but then it's a shame Bill is no longer around (though that would be pushing it). There was a BBC Horizon documentary in the mid or late 80s, which was almost entirely Bill himself, telling his story, fantastic stuff: --- some of that could have been good to include.

Having said that, there are still many great (new to me) clips of Bill in this film, and yes this is definitely a film worth seeing.
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on June 2, 2015
Well done, insightful film of one of the great authors of the "Beat" generation.
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on January 7, 2016
It's William S Burroughs. Enough said.
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on June 6, 2015
This came in perfect mint condition. The dvd was captivating if your a fan you'll like this. It's definitely not something you find in just anybody's home. There is homosexuality in it so if your not open minded and respect any love you'll probably be thrown for a loop. I loved this. Thank you for the excellent safe packaging.
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on February 24, 2015
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