Fans of filmmaker Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, My Own Private Idaho, Milk) will love this 1982 short film – The Discipline of D.E. – based on a story by William S. Burroughs. And fans of Burroughs himself will particularly love its theme: The “D.E.” in the title stands for “Doing Easy,” a quasi-Buddhist notion best explained by the short’s koan-like closing question, “How fast can you take your time, kid?”
But it is to fans of Burroughs’ brief performance in the 1989 Van Sant classic Drugstore Cowboy that we dedicate this post. Playing the kind, ruined dope-fiend Father Murphy — i.e. himself — Burroughs perfectly embodied both the allure of his junky aesthetic and its underlying despair. In the six years between The Discipline of D.E. and Drugstore Cowboy, Van Sant seemed to have traded his youthful infatuation with a cult hero for the mournful appreciation of a wise but broken man. We highly recommend viewing both films together.
Finally, in our collection of Free Movies Online, you will also find Burroughs the Movie (a documentary by Howard Bruckner) and The Junky’s Christmas, a short claymation film written by William S. Burroughs and produced by Francis Ford Coppola.
Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.