Naked Lunch [Blu-Ray] David Cronenberg

Naked Lunch [Blu-Ray] David Cronenberg
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As noted in Chris Rodley's essay, "So Deep in My Heart that You're Really a Part of Me", included in the front sleeve booklet of Criterion's Naked Lunch Blu-ray package, this film "constitutes not only a cinematic inevitability; it is also the latest stage in a filmic experiment that has spanned some twenty years". Rodley also touches on this notion in the medium-length documentary included with the set, Naked Making Lunch, which details the process of Cronenberg adapting the notorious Burroughs novel, making a hallucinatory, ersatz biographical experiment of a work detailing the writing of the text rather than tackling the impossibility of a literal interpretation. The similarities and differences between the two are outlined explicitly, with both Burroughs and Cronenberg having a preoccupation with the body as an inefficient, readily modified physical presence, easily mutated and invaded by disease, which both men perceive as having a motivation unto itself, forcing co-existence and inner-conflict within the physical form. Their differences are moralistic; Burroughs' writing details morality and the afterlife, where Cronenberg's work is removed from such conceits, focused more on man's constant modification of his own world and the world around him. These distinctions and commonalities are present within this experimental cinematic work. Bill Lee (Peter Weller), an exterminator by ideological assertion, becomes addicted to the yellow powder he uses to kill bugs. He and his wife experience a "literary high", which is where reality and fiction bleed, injecting elements from Burroughs' own life, such as the "William Tell act" where the author inadvertently killed his own wife in Mexico City while trying to shoot a shot glass off her head. This drug trip denotes the impending fragmented narrative, wherein Bill travels to the Interzone, a Tangier-like state in Northern Africa colonized specifically by homosexual British settlers. Queers are a driving force in Bill's journey, representing the self-hatred he imposes on himself for his wife's death. He indulges in sodomy with other men—represented monstrously as cockroaches (an affirmation of Burroughs moral presence)—being motivated by the writing urge as visualized by an insect-typewriter that talks out of a giant asshole, demonstrating the primal urges and seedy self-punishment of internal loathing, denying himself love with women and instead fucking men in the ass. This typewriter, which exaggerates the inner-conflict that writing creates, also frames a hallucinatory motivator of conspiracy—another commonality between the works of Cronenberg and Burroughs—suggesting that the giant bugs and cockroaches (homosexuals) excreting milky fluids to placate and control the masses—semen—are plotting to take over. This simultaneous paranoia and vaguely Judeo-Christian fear of the "other" is a representation of Burroughs as the author as deconstructed through actual life events and through his own fictional works as extension of self. Cronenberg is infusing a similarly sensationalist and metaphorical structure to his narrative that the author did, expressing the concept and idea of Naked Lunch through his own eyes as he was influenced by the notorious author. As a work unto itself, it is opaque and alienating, generating images to shock the senses while forcing an emotional disconnect for purpose of analysis. But, of note is something more so in Cronenberg's later, more recent works, which is a melancholic trajectory of a man escape from his world and constructing a false sense of reality—conspiracy—while criticizing colonial methods—like cockroaches and homosexuals taking over—to cope with the self-hatred imposed by killing his wife. This bit of heart amidst the self-consciously grotesque imagery and plethora of themes marks the distinction between the two artists as well as a transition for the Canadian director from more perverse, visual effects-laden works to a more internalized sense of social subversion and critique. As usual, Criterion's package is the ultimate way to experience this work, having the aforementioned documentary and essay, in addition to writings and recordings with Burroughs and original marketing materials. (Criterion)