‘Naked Lunch’ Review: Exterminate all Rational Thought

Posted in The Screening Room by - August 02, 2015

My first film of our Page to Screen month is Naked Lunch. Released in 1991, the film Naked Lunch stars Peter Weller as Bill Lee, Judy Davis as Joan Frost/Lee, and a host of other performers that fill various roles. It was directed by David Cronenberg, and his fingerprints are all over the piece. It’s opening credits are made up of colorful geometric shapes accompanied by improvisational jazz, and with such off pace sensory inputs, my experience with cinema this August is off to the races.

One day, professional exterminator and amateur author Bill Lee discovers his wife injecting roach powder into her breast, at which point she tells him it’s a “literary high” because you feel like one of Kafka’s a bug. He tries it and gets addicted, after which he swiftly gets picked up by the cops. It’s a rough film to describe in normal, rational terms, considering that by the twelve minutes mark Bill has already discovered and accepted the fact that giant bugs that talk out of assholes on their backs are secretly running the government, and require that Bill murder his wife. At twenty six minutes in he does so, and the movie only gets weirder from there. An unidentifiable alien licking orange ooze out of a bong appears to Bill in a bar. The apparent topics of the movie’s consideration range from the addictive attributes of human life, to the existence of the written word as a sin, and the value and relevance of homosexuality. Of course, none of this is real, or perhaps all of it is, or perhaps it’s all an addict’s crazed perception of the world around him as he struggles with his own internal psychiatric hang ups.

The most astounding aspect of the film is the visual effects. Yes, the movie’s images are mostly made up of aliens that squirt alcoholic green fluid out of their head tentacles, or bugs that hide in plain sight disguised as typewriters, but the sheer scope of the practical effects that make up those visuals is amazing. One scene showcases a type writer as it turns in to a strange, hairless, pink creature. The scene seems impossible, and yet the film makers manage to pull it off back in 1991.

Interestingly, Naked Lunch has the makings of an entertaining psycho spy thriller, but as with many works of fiction created by authors with the type of mind capable of making a story about an exterminator addicted to drugs that reveal the fact that homosexual bugs rule the world and plan to publish his drugged out descriptions of hallucinations, the premise gets so weird that it becomes difficult to follow without active mental effort. Naked Lunch is not a feature that a viewer can simply sit down and watch, finding themselves transported seamlessly in to a fictional fulfillment of fantasy. Instead, it is a visually stimulating, unnerving, and often times indecipherable examination in to the creative mind of David Cronenberg. For that purpose, it is exceptional, but for the purpose of the average film goer, it is far to experimental to watch.

Final Say: Skip It (Unless you’re in to that sort of thing.)

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Born in Arizona, he currently resides in Denton, Texas. When he isn't watching movies he's playing board games and drinking whatever he can get his hands on. John watches Djimon Honsou movies because he likes Spawn, which had Michael Jai White.
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