Sunday, July 3, 2011

831. Naked Lunch (1991)

Running Time: 115 minutes
Directed By: David Cronenberg
Written By: David Cronenberg, from novel by William S. Burroughs
Main Cast: Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Julian Sands, Roy Scheider


Finishing up my three movie salute to David Cronenberg, I come to "Naked Lunch". It's going to be hard to explain "Naked Lunch", but I'll give it the old college try.

Bill Lee (Weller) is an exterminator. One day, while out on a roach job, Bill runs out of bug powder. After he is embarrassed back at the office for screwing up on the job, he goes home to find that it's his wife, Joan (Davis), who has been taking his powder and injecting it, like heroin. It doesn't take her long to get Bill hooked on the stuff and soon we're off on a trip down the rabbit hole. Bill becomes addicted to the bug powder and begins to hallucinate. He is later picked up by police and during the interrogation, Bill sees a giant cockroach, who tells him that he is a secret agent and that his newest assignment is to kill his wife. When Bill returns home, he inadvertently shoots his wife in the head, while performing a William Tell routine. After the death of Joan, Bill escapes to the Interzone, where he begins writing reports, now fully believing that he is an agent. Bill remains hooked on the bug powder and sometimes his typewriter turns into a giant bug. There's more to the plot and we really never know if anything is real or if it's a hallucination of Bill's bug powder induced mind. I'll stop there, because honestly, I'm just confusing myself even more than I already was.

This film really lost me once we got into the thick of things and it's probably going to take repeated viewing before I can start to put together a reasonable thought process on what actually happened in this film. However, I'm not sure I'll ever watch "Naked Lunch" again, because this was honestly one of the most taxing chores I've had to sit through, since I started the "1001" book. At this point, I'm just glad that the damn thing is finished, so that I can write it up for the blog and put it behind me. It had some enticing elements, to be quite honest with myself. I liked the whole modern noir they had going on there and throwing an exterminator into the noir world was kind of cool. Peter Weller was pretty good too and during the second half of the film he tells the best "talking asshole" story I've ever heard. But honestly, to try and talk myself out of hating this film, by reminding myself of the few good things, is a lost cause. I didn't like "Naked Lunch" AT ALL and despite the few good parts, it was all lost in a confusing film where typewriters turned into giant insects and there was plenty of Cronenberg's signature semen-esque liquids flowing around.

Like "Videodrome", "Naked Lunch" just wasn't up my alley and in the end, after finishing the three Cronenberg films in the book, I'd say that Cronenberg just isn't my kind of director. Sure "The Fly" was a good piece of movie making, but the other two were such complete disasters, that I can't, in good conscience, give Cronenberg a pass. If I ever get up the gumption to check it out again, then I will and maybe I'll be able to make heads or tails out of "Naked Lunch", but for now call it one of the worst films I've seen from the book thus far.

RATING: 1/10 Possibly...POSSIBLY the worst film I've watched for the book thus far. But if it's not it's certainly down there with company like "Cat People" and "The Black Cat".


July 3, 2011 4:32pm


  1. "I'll remember that hideous schlupping sound until my dying day..."

    I couldn't disagree more on this one. This is a brilliant fever dream, an adult Wizard of Oz. Unlike dream within a dream films like Inception, any attempt to try to figure out if Bill is dreaming or not is wholly counterproductive, and besides, you'll only guess wrong.

    Bill is an extension of Burroughs into the story - he actually killed his common-law wife (also named Joan) the way Bill killed Joan here. It's a further blurring of the lines between reality and fantasy in the story.

    Trying to make sense of Naked Lunch is like trying to separate cake back into eggs and flour and sugar. It's meant to be enjoyed, not understood.

  2. Andrew, to be fair, David Cronenberg's films are usually more about surreal sensory details than linear, easy-to-follow plots. :-) With William S. Burroughs' work being this film's inspiration, it's no surprise that NAKED LUNCH comes off like a crazy, coked-up fever dream. Leave logic at the door and just let NAKED LUNCH blow your mind for a little while! :-) That said, if NAKED LUNCH simply isn't your cup of LSD-laced tea, that's OK, too; there's no law saying we have to like everything! :-)

  3. Thanks for your comments guys. Unfortunately I just didn't enjoy it. I wasn't as much consumed with trying to figure it out, as I was just trying to get through it.


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