|Troubled waters run deep when you are on drugs.|
Naked Lunch is a trip. I thought for some time how to describe the film in one word and ‘trip’ is the best way I can sum it up; it takes you on a visual journey like no other film. Naked Lunch by David Cronenberg is not a faithful adaptation of the book by William Burroughs. It would have cost too much and would have repulsed most audiences. What Naked Lunch does succeed in doing is show the seductive path of drug use taken by Burroughs (portrayed as William Lee in the film) and the fascinating reality he travelled in his hallucinations – and he wrote a masterpiece while doing it. The viewer undergoes the journey with Burroughs into a reality where aliens run an agency and typewriters eat one another. Cronenberg manages to capture the essence and pain Burroughs put into the novel and if you subscribe to its madness, you will be greatly entertained.
Coherence is almost non-existent the first viewing around. Lee is an exterminator with a sordid past. He hangs out with a bunch of beatniks and his wife, Joan is addicted to the bug powder he uses to kill insects. Despite of all these warnings, he just does not care. He looks bored with the life he is living as if he has been to a much better place and this life just SUCKS. What makes the film work on a narrative scale is that the viewer is just as confused as Lee and experiences his hallucinations as he does. The stream of consciousness style that the Beatniks are famed for is adapted to film, but not like the fast-paced craziness of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The way the film pushes the story onwards, makes it exciting and keeps the viewer on their toes, is by having two subtly different narrative paths. The paths are almost mirroring each other in pace, but overlapping in continuity. The viewer is aware of the differences in the misenscene and reality, but cannot quite put their finger on it. This is my favourite storytelling technique used in the film and the main reason why I recommend Naked Lunch to any movie lover and not only to the wacky purveyors of weird.
The beatniks and his wife Joan connect Lee to his drug-abused path, but he is on the straight and narrow. His young friends Hank and Martin (obviously Jack Kerouac and Allan Ginsberg) are young fun and just so wild. Lee is verging on middle age and tries to be stoic and emotionless – or he is as drug abuse destroyed any interesting aspect of him. Lee relies on his good looks and people think his mysterious demeanour is charming. In a way, he is, but charm is all he has. This might make him sound boring, but his blank slate allows the viewer to easily connect with him and simultaneously act as an impartial observer as if they are watching a reality show following him around. Lee gets away with it because his alter ego, drug crazy private dick, is so damn interesting.
Lee marches around in a dapper suit and acts listless and cool. He is an adult, and they (Joan included) are a bunch of kids. Then the drug abuse starts, hallucinations visit him and he just goes. That is right goes. Lee just lets the madness envelop him. Lee is writing reports, just writing them. Why, the typewriter told him so. Why he listens - the typewriter told him so. Lee panics but since the reality is just so real, he just accepts it. Because he accepts it, the world becomes simultaneously wonderful and dark – mirroring his drug addiction. Lee never asked for the drug addiction or to be a junkie, Lee just is one. He acts as if it is like drinking water – you need it to survive. Makes sense as to why he so resigned to his wife’s drug abuse and his friends promiscuity.
Sex is central to the film, but it is not erotic in the physical sense. There is lots of teasing, but the sex for the most part is golden age Hollywood; many innuendos, but no penetration. The sex would be irrelevant to the plot, if it did not center on Lee’s hallucinations, report writing and novel writing. The film structures around Lee’s experiences while writing Naked Lunch. The novel was banned when it came out in the late 50s in many countries and certain states for its promotion of homosexuality and graphic sexual detail. Sex seems to make Lee come alive and out of his shell. It makes him vulnerable and at peace. Sex the only thing that anchors him to reality.
If you have come this far in the review, you should be nodding and saying to yourself “this film seems interesting, but why is Naked Lunch on the brink of good when I visit IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes?” Reviewing a movie is subjective and this film is peculiar and requires the viewer to accept its logic and go with it, while ignoring typical film conventions. With a film that does it perfectly (2001: A Space Odessy) there will still be contention with audiences and critics. Naked Lunch unfortunately stumbles in a few places. There are notable plot inconsistencies and awkward reality shifts, which pulls the viewer out. The flaws only occur a few times, but they are enough to break the suspension of belief and make the viewer go “huh?”. Perhaps a director’s cut could fix these issues, as reshooting 20 years later would be impractical and stupid.
You do have to subscribe to its wackiness and meet the film on its terms and forgive some slip-ups. Imagine you are eating a delicious meal, and the sauce is slightly too salty. It is not terrible, but it does force you to work a little bit harder to enjoy every succulent taste. While my metaphor is cheesy (haha, the film is Naked Lunch and he mentioned food) it works. Accept the film for what it is and you will have a rewarding and enjoyable film experience. NAKED! Before you tune out, here is an anchor point, which you will thank me for telling you. Lee is always having dinner when some crazy drug or sexual experience starts. Now it should not be too hard to figure out the connotations between that sentence and the film’s title. Now go and have fun with the film, preferably with friends and mind altering substances. It will make more sense that way to your guests and they can enjoy the film and watch it again while sober.
|news||DVD/Blu-Ray Releases for Apr. 9th||FinalDasa|
|news||Welcome To Weird: Naked Lunch||No_name_here|
|forum||Welcome To Weird: Naked Lunch||No_name_here|
|review||Troubled waters run deep when you are on drugs. (4 out of 5)||GiveUpNed|
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|news||Not Even Light Can Escape From David Cronenberg's Gaping Hole||Matt|
|US Release||Dec. 27, 1991|
|UK Release||April 24, 1992|
|AUS Release||April 30, 1992|
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