Thursday, 18 February 2016

Naked Lunch

It's a Kafka high. You feel like a bug.

Naked Lunch is the greatest film about writing. Not The Shining. Not Barton Fink. Not Adaptation. For all their inspired insanity, those films treat writing like a rational process. It isn't. As William Lee says in one of the opening scenes of Naked Lunch, you first have to ‘exterminate all rational thought’. You need Burroughs. You need Cronenberg. And you need a major juxtaposition in the form of a poker-faced Peter Weller and the repulsive images of crushed bugs. Then you can get close to it.

I first watched Naked Lunch when I was 19. An old woman, a great art lover who died as quietly as she lived, brought it to me on a scratchy DVD (no cheap Internet downloads in those days) that also contained The Night Porter. As it turned out, I hated The Night Porter and loved Naked Lunch. I fell in love with the very first shot.

New York City, 1953. The red door.

The sound of free jazz, a smart looking man in a suit exterminating bugs. People saying stuff like 'I gave up writing when I was 10. It's dangerous'. Judy Davis getting high on bug powder. Typewriters transforming into genitalia. Centipedes crawling in your bathroom. Talking insects. Naked Lunch is a film you watch with your senses, not with your intellect. Your intellect explodes the moment you enter Interzone.

Interzone is, of course, a perfect metaphor. A place of queers, black meat and strange typewritten reports. I still believe the Davis-Weller scene in the Frosts' apartment is one of the most unforgettable and disturbing scenes in world cinema. It got me more than anything in Videodrome, which should say a lot. And it's always wonderful to see Judy Davis do her mannerisms. This is the muse of Barton Fink taken to extremes. 

Existentialism was about absurdity. The Theatre of the Absurd was absurdity itself. Likewise, Naked Lunch is not just about writing. It is writing. It's Franz Kafka on very heavy drugs.