DVD Review - Naked Lunch (1991)
Back in March 2007, I wrote a review of Naked Lunch. Criterion Collection had added it to their list. It's currently #220 of their 660 titles. On April 9, 2013, Criterion released it on Blu-Ray. In honor of its re-release, I've decided to re-post my review.
"Nothing is true. Everything is permitted." That's the quote that begins this hallucinatory tale of a bug exterminator named Bill Lee. David Cronenberg created the character based on the main figure of William S. Burroughs' other writings. The film is Cronenberg's biographical interpretation of certain elements in Burroughs' life that inspired the writings.
Burroughs was a member of the Beatniks, a group of writers and expatriates who were at the forefront of the Beat and Hippie Generation, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Drugs played a big role. An attitude of rebellion against the mainstream was also integral.
In just the opening 15 minutes, you get a woman injecting roach powder into her breasts for the narcotic high, the Ginsberg and Kerouac characters trying to convince Bill Lee to do a porn book and Bill Lee actually caressing with his fingers an actual talking asshole.
Naked Lunch is a perfect social satire not unlike a film version of 1950s American life as observed by Jonathan Swift or Lewis Carroll. It is fantastical on so many levels but on those same levels an absolute reflection of our culture.
The Criterion Collection put together a great DVD two disc set. I just recently discovered it, which includes an explanation of how Cronenberg culled together Burroughs' insane work and how he crafted the various creatures of Burroughs' equally insane Inter-zone universe like the Mugwump aliens and of course the Arabic sex blob, a moist fleshy, half-man, half-centipede, gluttonous, phallic juice maker.
With a slick acting style by Judy Davis in a dual role and actor and Burroughs' aficionado Peter Weller (Robocop) giving a cool and seriously comedic performance as a man losing his mind and becoming more and more drug dependent and addicted, as he grapples to understand his guilt-created world of ambiguity, this movie is funny and weird to the max.
Weller's speech about an anus that grows teeth is priceless and not to be missed. As Burroughs parodies noirish tough cop tales and cheesy 50s sci-fi novels with sheer genius of wit, Cronenberg translates it with great style and incorporates sick but exciting puppetry. "Welcome to Annexia."
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for heavy drug content, bizarre eroticism, and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 55 mins.