Glasgow Film Festival 2015: Burroughs: The Movie

Film Review by Lewis Porteous | 21 Feb 2015
  • Burroughs: The Movie
Film title: Burroughs: The Movie
Director: Howard Brookner
Starring: William S Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Terry Southern

While this examination of renowned American oddball William Burroughs presents viewers with something approaching a linear narrative, its fragmented tone calls to mind the writer’s famous literary ‘cut-ups’.

The film, rarely seen since its release, opens with footage of the subject’s 1981 US network TV debut, his brief spoken word slot on Saturday Night Live flickering before us as though in a volatile state of radioactivity. Archive footage is used to similarly unsettling effect throughout, often soundtracked by the star’s disembodied, deadpan Midwestern drawl. Talking heads report the discomfort Burroughs would elicit in others, something which Howard Brookner successfully conveys over the course of his documentary.

Forceful as the director’s approach is, it’s the full participation of key countercultural heroes that renders this essential viewing. Watching the Naked Lunch author, who gave the project his full participation, interact with the likes of former lover Allen Ginsberg and tragic son Billy Jr makes for a far more revealing look at the man than anyone could have reasonably hoped for.

The Skinny at Glasgow Film Festival 2015:

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21 Feb, GFT, 10.45am

27 Feb, CCA , 6.15 pm

28 Feb, CCA, 1.30pm