At a dense, tidy ninety minutes, Yony Leyser’s “William S. Burroughs: A Man Within,” narrated by Peter Weller, serves as more than an introduction to the charismatic writer, Beat figure and all-around eccentric who long outlived his peers (he lived to be 83) and served as a sinister grandfather figure to later generations of artists. It’s a compact entertainment as well as a survey of his fascination with guns, mind control and all things pharmaceutical. A wealth of previously unseen archival footage of Burroughs and recordings of his idiosyncratic, unshakable voice bring the man and his sincerity to life. John Waters sees him “as almost a religious figure”; Leyser makes the case as well with “A Man Within.” With Patti Smith, Diane DiPrima, Lee Ranaldo, David Cronenberg, Gus Van Sant, Amiri Baraka, Genesis P-Orridge, Andy Warhol, Iggy Pop, Thurston Moore, Jello Biafra, Laurie Anderson. (The filmmakers are Chicagoans.) 90m. (Ray Pride)
“William S. Burroughs: A Man Within” opens Friday at the Music Box.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.