Thursday, March 09, 2006

Naked Lunch (1991)

Some images from David Cronenberg's film of Naked Lunch. I checked the Criterion DVD out of the library last week. This is Cronenberg's masterpiece. Somehow, this is one of those combinations of two different artists' visions that mesh perfectly.

Man, Judy Davis is so amazing in this film, especially in the early part of the film playing Joan. That intense, sexual look on her face--it's like if you took Femme Fatale and boiled it down to this viscous concentrate of predatory sexuality.

I love this color palette.

Listening to Cronenberg speak on the commentary is interesting. He's kind of exactly like you'd think he'd be. If you've ever heard or read an interview with Russ Meyer, he keeps using words like "Huge," "Colossal," "Gargantuan," and so on, pretty much as you'd expect, and in a similar way it's not surprising to hear Cronenberg use words like "tactile," "sensuous," "viscous" frequently.

There's also a great documentary, with plenty of footage of Burroughs. It mentions several failed or abandoned attempts to adapt the book. Frank Zappa, in the early 80's, apparantly wanted to make an Off-Broadway musical of Naked Lunch! I would love to have seen that. I guess that idea sort of morphed into ThingFish.

The first time I saw this movie was a strange experience, as my friends Dane and Jay had come in from out of town to hang out. Well, they were sort of friends, one of whom (Dane) I knew from college, and his friend Jay whom he brought along. Dane was dating my friend and nextdoor neighbor Tanya. These guys were very rowdy skinheads who drank to excess, listened to Napalm Death and Carcass at loud volumes constantly, and basically acted like hooligans. Somehow I ended up bringing them to a cookout at a coworker's house, and Jay, already drunk in the afternoon, climbed up a phone pole in the backyard. Then we went downtown to the bars, spent all night drinking, and went to a midnight movie at the Tate Center. By this time Jay was beyond drunk, and he threw some kind of drunken fit in the lobby. Dane, my wife, and Tanya spent most of the running time in the lobby trying to talk him down, and I was sort of in-and-out (hey, I felt for the guy, but since I was the one who wanted to see this, I felt minimal guilt about ducking out of the drama to see the film). Finally, about 15 minutes before the end, they got him to calm down, come into the theater and take a seat. Can you guess what happened next? Yep, the movie ends, Jay is sound asleep, head tilted back, snoring, and he just ain't gonna wake up. So we ended up carrying him back to the car. I would say "what a nightmare," but it's hard to use that word for a situation like this after watching Naked Lunch.

I started out this month reading The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. Excellent book, but I zipped right through it. I was expecting it to be much more of a difficult read than it was. Possibly it has a tougher reputation through association with Gravity's Rainbow, or possibly nothing seems very difficult when compared to Finnegan's Wake (which, by the way, I should be through Book I, Chapter 7 by the end of the month). At any rate, I was done with the book earlier than expected, and had to come up with something else to read, and after watching the movie, I thought maybe I should give Naked Lunch another try. I first tried to read it back in high school, but I loaned the copy to my friend Dan and never got it back (although I doubt that I would have finnished it anyway). I tried again around the time I moved out here, in '96 or '97, but couldn't quite get through then either.

When I picked the book up, I was happy to discover that I had left the bookmark in it from last time, and I only had about 60 pages to go! So in a few days, I will be able to honestly say that I finished Naked Lunch. I can see why I gave up on it, though--it's not so much the disjointed narrative as just the general unpleasantness. It's an icky book, even compared to the movie.


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