Thursday, March 01, 2012
"Naked Lunch" on film (1991): weird, and a taste of film noir
Back in 1969, as I was stationed at Fort Eustis, VA, another servicemember who called himself “Rado Suhl” carried around a copy of the iconoclastic novel by William S. Burroughs, “Naked Lunch”, published by Grove in the early 1960s (with some controversy over censorship).
The 1991 film was directly by David Cronenberg, for 20th Century Fox (today it would be Fox Searchlight) in Britain and Canada.
It has the look of a David Lynch film, to be sure, as the writer’s visions constantly manifest as various forms of bugs, coming out of everything. The “logical explanation” of course is the protagonist’s substance addiction – but this time the substance is bug extermination compound. Peter Weller plays Bill Lee, apparently a loose adaptation of the author himself, who becomes a writer after accidentally shooting his wife and having some at least tangential exploration of his homosexuality. (That comes out in one very strange scene where the “partners” become huge blogs with heads – like right out of “The Thing”. Did this film help inspire Carter Smith’s “Bugcrush”, Jan. 29, 2008 here.) He also becomes involved with a “plot” in the Middle East that, however, bizarre, seems a bit prescient as to how history would evolve there. The film production of the Morocco scenes had to be done in Toronto because the 1991 Gulf War precluded their doing it on location.
The commentary discusses the platonic relationship between Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg (see Nov. 26, 2010 here), about 12 years younger. It also mentions other famous gay writers from earlier times, especially Jean Genet.
Video -- book review of "Naked Lunch":