Thursday, June 20, 2013

Naked Lunch

Alaston lounas / Den nakna lunchen [on screen] / Naken lunch. CA/GB © 1991 Recorded Picture Company (RPC) / Naked Lunch Productions. PC: Film Trustees, Ltd. / Naked Lunch Productions / Nippon Film Development and Finance / The Ontario Film Development Corporation / Recorded Picture Company (RPC) / Téléfilm Canada. P: Jeremy Thomas. Co-producer: Gabriella Martinelli. D+SC: David Cronenberg - based on the novel (1959) by William S. Burroughs. DP: Peter Suschitzky. PD: Carol Spier. AD: James McAteer. Set dec: Elinor Rose Galbraith. Special creatures and effects: Chris Walas. Animatronics team: Big. Credit sequence: Balsmeyer and Everett. End sequence: Film Effects. Cost: Denise Cronenberg. Makeup: Christine Hart. Hair: Rhoda Ancill, jne. M: Ornette Coleman, Howard Shore. Perf: The Ornette Coleman Trio. S: Bryan Day. ED: Ronald Sanders. Loc: Toronto. Casting: Deirdre Bowen. C: Peter Weller (Bill Lee), Judy Davis (Joan Frost / Joan Lee), Ian Holm (Tom Frost), Julian Sands (Yves Cloquet), Roy Scheider (Dr. Benway), Monique Mercure (Fadela), Nicholas Campbell (Hank), Michael Zelniker (Martin), Robert A. Silverman (Hans), Joseph Scoren (Kiki), Peter Boretski (voices of creatures). Helsinki premiere: 16.10.1992 President 1, released by: Finnkino with Finnish / Swedish subtitles – telecast: 7.9.1999 MTV3, 10.10.2010 Nelonen – vhs: 1995 Nordisk Film Home Entertainment – dvd: 2005 Future Film – VET 97973 – K16 – 3170 m / 116 min. A vintage KAVA print deposited by Finnkino viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (David Cronenberg), 18 June, 2013

Wikipedia synopsis: "William Lee is an exterminator who finds that his wife Joan is stealing his insecticide (pyrethrum) to use as a drug. When Lee is arrested by the police, he begins hallucinating because of "bug powder" exposure. He believes he is a secret agent whose controller (a giant bug) assigns him the mission of killing Joan, who is an agent of an organization called Interzone Incorporated. Lee dismisses the bug and its instructions and kills it. He returns home to find Joan sleeping with Hank, one of his writer friends. Shortly afterwards, he accidentally kills her while attempting to shoot a drinking glass off her head in imitation of William Tell."

"Having inadvertently accomplished his "mission", Lee flees to Interzone. He spends his time writing reports for his imaginary handler, and it is these documents which, at the insistence of his literary colleagues, eventually become the titular book. Whilst Lee is under the influence of assorted mind-altering substances, his typewriter, a Clark Nova, becomes a giant talking insect which tells him to find Dr. Benway, by seducing Joan Frost, who is a doppelgänger of his dead wife."

"After coming to the conclusion that Dr. Benway is, in fact, the secret mastermind of a narcotics operation for a drug called "black meat" which is supposedly derived from the guts of giant centipedes, Lee completes his report and flees Interzone to Annexia with Joan Frost."

"Stopped by the Annexian border patrol and instructed to prove that he is a writer as he claims, Lee produces a pen. As this is insufficient proof for passage he inexplicably offers a demonstration of his William Tell routine using a glass atop Joan Frost's head. He again misses badly and thus re-enacts the earlier killing of his wife. He is then allowed to enter Annexia."

A hommage to William S. Burroughs and his revolutionary novel Naked Lunch, there is a parallel here to the more recent On the Road film adaptation by Walter Salles. Both are well made movies with an exceptional amount of respect towards their literary sources. Both are rather commentaries on the Beat Generation than compelling expressions of the Beat spirit.

There is nothing to complain. Peter Weller, Judy Davis, and the rest are fine in their roles. The sense of paranoia is impressive. The concept of making a movie about the genesis of Naked Lunch is a brilliant solution to adapting the unfilmable anti-novel.

The special effects with the machine flesh of the living typewriters are essential Cronenberg, but there is something academic and reverent in them.

The utterly iconoclastic turns of the movie are performed brilliantly and respectfully.

Something of Burroughs's sense of daring and sense of play (on display for instance in Towers Open Fire, which we screened before the feature) is missing from the movie adaptation of Naked Lunch.

Naked Lunch the movie is a worthy study object, but it does not fly.

The print is complete with the usual rain in the starts and the tails, and the visual quality is satisfying but not brilliant, or perhaps the quality is slightly queer intentionally.

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