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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Science Fiction Literature > Commissioner Of Sewers (W. S. Burroughs)

Commissioner Of Sewers – William S. Burroughs (Documentary)


Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Program: C+



Every few weeks, someone asks me what I think about David Cronenberg’s 1991 film of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, which is more like a weekly thing since Criterion did a deluxe DVD of it.  This is all the more reason I am glad a DVD of the actual author is available.  Commissioner Of Sewers (also 1991) is a series of interviews and lectures that show his point of view explicitly that is not as abstract as the film of his book people still talk about.


The title refers to once-governor Ronald Reagan saying he would not want to be president, so Burroughs reasons why he would like to be the commissioner of a sewer system.  A Honeymooners/Ed Norton fan maybe, it is at the crux of the way he sees life, without pretense.  You may not always agree with he says, and sometimes he runs into sounding pseudo-intellectual when he is not, he has a point of view and we do not hear many attempting that now, so it is welcome talk.


The program consists of old monochrome film footage, experimental video, experimental talks on location in video, and stills, which evens out to an average presentation.  This is all full frame.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 is a mix of stereo and monophonic sound, but is not bad.  There are no extras.


Unlike the abstract movie and book we began with, this Klaus Maeck “film” is good in showing the humorist Burroughs turns out to be.  I just wish it was longer than it was, but then I still have not seen that Criterion Naked Lunch yet, so that and a few books by the man seem a suddenly more interesting proposition.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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