The Discipline of D.E.: Gus Van Sant Adapts a Story by William S. Burroughs

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.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

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.

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