September 23, 2009

The old Bill

News has been getting around about this new William Burroughs doco, A Man Within. The trailer's been online for a few weeks. I have dim memories of a pretty good 1983 doco Burroughs that ran in the first year of Ant Timpson's Incredibly Strange Film Festival at the Capitol, Auckland, in 1994. That one tracked the biography; this, the first posthumous one, looks like it might track the influence. Thus, talking heads like Iggy Pop, John Waters, Laurie Anderson and Genesis P Orridge. Good news: no sign of Bono.

Based on this Chicago Reader feature, you could even consider this the revenge of James Grauerholz, Burroughs' literary executor, curator of the legend and the business manager who helped get Burroughs out of semi-obscurity in the 80s:
Grauerholz had been unhappy with a previous Burroughs documentary, Howard Brookner's 1983 Burroughs, in which he'd also played an active role. "I was surprised to see how my role in William's life had been handled in the final editing process," he says. "Basically, the BBC editors took a dislike to me. They . . . couldn't resist a 'controversial' angle on the Grauerholz guy. So they chopped together dozens of different speeches by me into a phony voice-over 'monologue' accompanying a montage of scenes of me and William working together, etc. If you listen on headphones you'll hear many, many audio splices. They made me look like a usurper and a smug, self-satisfied wise guy."
Grauerholz got [new doco director Yony] Leyser access to VHS footage of the Reunion and many of the local participants. The circle began to widen, encompassing Burroughs's friends and admirers on the coasts, and the scope of the film expanded as well ...