{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}



Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Naked Lunch




Before Naked Lunch, I have watched only one of Cronenberg's film, The Dead Zone. It was good but it didn't cross the limit of being great. Naked Lunch do it, quiet irrationally and quite consistently. This film is loosely adapted from William S. Burroughs's beat novel Naked Lunch but it is amalgamated with the tidbits of other stories by the same author and some of his real life details. One of the finest things about Naked Lunch is that it talks about the inseparability of inner reality from outer. I wasn't much aware of the style of Cronenberg before watching the movie. The Dead Zone was pretty straight forward. Naked Lunch exceeds here and its a mix of naivety and sophistication, this results in a insipid yet mouthwatering cocktail, which in turn gives a mix of dream, reality and fantasy, all of them at the same time. There are talking typewriters, big grownup bugs at the restaurant giving advises, human addiction to bug powder and what not, but it is not to sensationalize the screen, it is there to bring a feeling that it is not real, and at the same time a disturbing fear of what if we were there, a member of that blind orgy on a remote island of sand and dunes.

Naked Lunch is as absurd as a movie can get, there are some explanations to those absurdities too, but that's doesn't matter once the film engages you totally with its total lack of rationality. Naked Lunch revers irrationality in its crudest form. To say the least, Naked Lunch should be seen with an open mind.


As a customary, I will give a brief plot here, don't blame me, if it doesn't make any sense to your sensible minds. Bill Lee (played to pefection by Peter Weller), an exterminator, has a desire to write and regret his inability to do so to his friends. He discovers his wife, Joan Lee (Judy Davis) is a bug powder addict and soon he too joins her in the addiction. In a hallucinatory episode, he encounters an agent, a typewriter that transforms itself to a big bug and tells him that his wife is a spy with a plot to destroy her. The Bug instructs Bill to kill her so that she is not able to thwart his mission to a secret place called, Interzone. When Bill reaches his home, he invites Joan to play a "William Tell routine" and accidentally (or intentionally ?) kills her. Bill escapes to the paranoid landscape of Interzone, where he injects himself with different drugs from black meat, made of Brazilian centipede to another drug called mugwump jism and begins to experience altered realities of drugs and sexuality. Soon he starts to write but discovers that writing is consuming him. Near the end it looks like the conspiracy against him is exposed and he is back to reality but the process of creativity and destruction starts all over again.

Naked Lunch is not for those who want a film to be coherent or who may mistake high-art to plot holes or who may detest the graphic images or who believe in the bug-free purity of life or who are bent on taking things literally. Cronenberg paints his canvas with shades of gray with disconnected characters that go through a series of grotesque experience. The films also talks about the process of creation and seems to convey a vague message that a writer uses his art as a therapy. In a very interesting scene, the typewriter takes control of the writer and dictate the text to feed into it. Lee's bizarre addictions are used by Cronenberg to portray a journey, he is going through as a writer, as a husband and as a distressed being.


After Naked Lunch I watched The Fly and Crash by Cronenberg, both the movie do have the classic Cronenbergian style but they in a way or two lack the mad mastery of Naked Lunch, though Crash comes very close. It is obvious that this film cannot be taken literally, but we cannot so easily take it as a metaphor too. I would love to see a smoking monstrous bug sipping an orange colored drink and also wonder why a bug is used here and more importantly a combination of the two. The pleasure of watching it comes from it being both, like in Roman Polanski's psychological thriller The Tenant we are not given any clue what is real and what is happening in the mind of Trelkovsky and if the two very different, all this lead to a mystery that is in part unresolvable, in part highly contemplative with respect to human mind and its seemingly vague ways.

Naked Lunch score so high because its about addictions and their necessity to mankind. We move from one addiction to other to live, and in the meantime life throws its insolvable riddles to us, thus making it interesting and worth enjoying and analyzing. Naked Lunch reminds us of those realities and fantasies of creation and destruction, muse and desire, flesh and spirit, in its vital cinematic voice.

See the strange objects of David Cronenberg's desire here.

13 comments:

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Alok said...

"people bent on taking things literally"

sadly, there most of us are literalists. we rarely acknowldege the existence of things as symbols or metaphors.

but then as you say sometimes, even that doesn't help

Noah said...

After reviewing Naked Lunch very recently I've been interested in seeing what other people thought of the movie. Great post. My post only included bunch of still images from the movie because I'd rather potential viewers just check it out on their own, but your review does an excellent job of explaining the film's finer points.

anurag said...

Thanks Noah, Keeping visiting !

I need to see this film again. I havent seen Cronenberg's new films, but it seems he has gone "sane" now... too bad ;)