Naked Lunch (1991)
The film Naked Lunch is primarily an account of the events which enabled the book Naked Lunch to be written. It tells the real story of a breakthrough that traverses obsession and addiction to communicate something intimate and integral, but not without a price.
William S. Burroughs’ fragmentary 1959 novel, had been deemed ‘unfilmable,’ however, David Cronenberg’s adaptation absolutely captures the spirit of “that frozen moment in time when each of us gets to see what is at the end of our forks.” In the 2003 commentary to the film, actor Peter Weller who plays Bill Lee in the film, both a real and fictive amalgam of Burroughs, quotes Kerouac as the inspiration for the title to Burroughs book.
Understanding the cliché of a film adaptation of a book to simply mirror, Cronenberg takes up the conch of creating his own form of communication, his own work of art, while using Burroughs’ novel as the imagery with which to flavor the work. This method resonates with the character of Burroughs’ writing, which often tended to take on a life of its own, while not denying a basis in real events. In this way the film can also be seen as a sort of tribute, as Cronenberg has identified Burroughs to be a great influence on his life.
Furthermore, the weird creatures and monsters of the film, not only provide comic relief from the heavy subject matter, but also function gutturally, bringing us back to that primal place where we are born to ourselves, where we see ourselves for who and what we really are, however uncomfortable or disgusting that may be. Here we find we have arrived at an already occupied territory, and therein, a struggle. “Welcome to Annexia.”
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