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Friday — May 27th, 2022: Well well well, another fantastic week in the books! [READ MORE]

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Naked Lunch


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๐ŸŽ™️ EPISODE 485: 06.09.22

In the last installment of this series, I basically wasn't in the mood to do the whole plot recap thing. With today's feature, frankly, I'm not sure it's even possible. That source of said impossibility (of adapting Burroughs for the big screen) was tackled more than admirably by Cronenberg. Realizing a straight adaptation of Naked Lunch was more or less a complete nonstarter, he opted for a meta, sideways approach. The final product is both a surrealist interpretation of Burroughs's life around the time he wrote the book and a hodgepodge of ideas, scenes and narratives stripped from a variety of his works, all primarily buoyed by Interzone thread found in Naked Lunch and the other entries in The Nova Trilogy. In some ways, it’s the psychedelic precursor to Adaptation.
It's a loose and fascinating film, brilliant in moments and a maddening slog at other points. Like with Burroughs's book(s), that seems to be the point; less about gleaning an understanding of plot or even any concrete meaning. You're meant to catch a vibe and let the spirit of the thing wash over you. And for someone like Cronenberg, who at times has been guilty of mixing his insane mutant horror tendencies with over-explaining and pragmatic reasoning where there isn't much to be found, this was a lovely and welcome reprieve. Peter Wellers (Robocop himself) plays the Burroughs stand-in William Lee and he's perfect in the role, capturing the real author's mumbly and constantly high demeanor to a T. He isn't a writer at the onset, but rather an exterminator, getting lifted off the same powder he uses to kill bugs. His wife his hooked on the stuff too. The cops bring him and ask him to demonstrate whether or not his bug powder is legit by presenting a giant beetle. Naturally, the bug starts talking to him and he kills it with his shoe...


The creature design in this is obviously fantastic and probably the best thing about the film. Instructed to kill his wife, whom he's told is an agent for Interzone Inc., and he does so, albeit accidentally? This of course is an allusion to the real-life William Tell incident in Buroughs own life. We're only fifteen minutes in and it's abundantly clear that all of this only matters tangentially. It's about the vibe and all assorted, semi-adjacent themes therein.

Bill meets an alien at a local bar, one of the Mugwumps, who gives him a ticket to Interzone and instructions to file reports on a Clark Nova typewriter...


This transition from exterminator to writer seems to cut at the heart of the movie's message: the idea of creation vs. deletion. It also doesn't shy away at concepts of sex and masculinity as we learn that "homosexuality is the best cover" from Bill's bug-typewriter, another magnificent creation...


The film is also a love letter to Burroughs and a celebration for his otherworldly, wholly unique body of work. Cronenberg's most eccentric impulses are all right there in the weird worlds he concocted.

Bill meets a bizarro version of his wife and her husband in Interzone; the latter of which gives him a supply of a new drug called Black Meat and lets him borrow his more refined typewriter. Naturally, the two typewriters get into a bug-typewriter fight to the death...


Then Bill and his bizarro-wife have a threesome with an erotic foreign-language typewriter before being interrupted by her dominatrix housekeeper who — SPOILERS! — is actually just Roy Scheider in an elaborate disguise, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Check out this madness...


Despite all the insanity, this seems to be clearly about the genesis of ideas and capturing thoughts into words. When his bizarro-wife's husband discovers his typewriter is gone, he kidnaps Bill's and is offered some words of advice...



But to give up 'the writing game' is the real death, and Bill knows it. He's slowly killing himself with drugs and he's going mad from confusion but he plods forward nonetheless. Interzone, like the hedonistic escape that was Tangiers for Burroughs, is the only place for an artist. America has always been evil but the 'zone takes care of its own. There are evils there too, unspeakable evils...


...but the difference is aesthetics: a symbiotic and gratuitous death vs. a stilted parasitic one. There is a third place/way as well: Annexia. And this is totalitarianism, the complete and final death of the arts.

Bill discovers a Mugwumps farm where a bunch of people (including Cronenberg staple, Robert A. Silverman) are sucking juice (Mugwump jism) out of these creatures' head tubes before Scheider reveals himself...


At this point, the viewer himself has no recourse but to submit to this horrifying madness. There's no more considering whether or not x+y=z etc. because the equation never really existed. Bill is tasked with one more mission: to go to Annexia in a wonky tank-car where is asked to prove he is a writer.

He does so by shooting his wife in the forehead (again)...


In the end, as weird and as horrible as your fiction can get, it can't hold a candle (or an empty glass) to real life.

๐šƒ๐š‘๐š’๐šœ ๐š’๐šœ ๐š๐š‘๐šŽ 12th ๐š’๐š—๐šœ๐š๐šŠ๐š•๐š•๐š–๐šŽ๐š—๐š ๐š˜๐š ๐™ฒ๐š‘๐š›๐š˜๐š—๐šŽ๐š—๐š‹๐šž๐š›๐š – ๐š–๐šข ๐šŒ๐š‘๐š›๐š˜๐š—๐š˜๐š•๐š˜๐š๐š’๐šŒ๐šŠ๐š• ๐š ๐šŠ๐š๐šŒ๐š‘/๐š›๐šŽ๐š ๐šŠ๐š๐šŒ๐š‘ ๐š˜๐š ๐™ณ๐šŠ๐šŸ๐š’๐š ๐™ฒ๐š›๐š˜๐š—๐šŽ๐š—๐š‹๐šŽ๐š›๐š'๐šœ ๐š๐š’๐š•๐š–๐š˜๐š๐š›๐šŠ๐š™๐š‘๐šข. ๐™ฒ๐š•๐š’๐šŒ๐š” ๐š‘๐šŽ๐š›๐šŽ ๐š๐š˜๐š› ๐š๐šž๐š•๐š• ๐š›๐šŠ๐š—๐š”๐š’๐š—๐š ๐šŠ๐š—๐š ๐š–๐š˜๐š›๐šŽ...

CHRONOLOGICALLY
EPISODE 484 - (YOU ARE HERE) - EPISODE 486 ⫸

Naked Lunch is a 1991 surrealist science fiction drama film written and directed by David Cronenberg and starring Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, and Roy Scheider. It is an adaptation of William S. Burroughs' 1959 novel of the same name, and an international co-production of Canada, Britain, and Japan. It was released on December 27, 1991.

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