David Cronenberg (1991)
“Nothing is true; everything is permitted.” Welcome to Interzone, the hellish playground of William Burroughs’ ‘Naked Lunch’. Along with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, Burroughs was among the central figures of the Beat generation. Over a frenzied decade bridging the 1950s and ’60s they were instrumental in reshaping America’s cultural landscape, tearing up their elders’ starchy doctrine and blazing the trail for the counterculture that followed. As dynamic, brilliant young things they seemingly make for ideal cinematic subjects, but only one film managed to capture something of the essence of its author and the Beat generation at large: David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch.
A key idea of the Beat generation was to treat the most authentic, uncensored human thoughts and desires as art. In a buttoned-up society, they challenged social norms via their insatiable appetite for sex, drugs and confessional intimacy. ‘Naked Lunch’ was banned for years in the US and even taken to court for its perceived obscenity, while Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ suffered a similar fate. Both eventually won their respective trials, ultimately helping to liberate American publishing. Liberalisation was, in many ways, what the Beat generation was all about: from strait-jacketed literature, from sexual repression, from lock-step social conformity.
The problem with films about the Beat generation is that so few are genuinely transgressive. But Naked Lunch is a different beast altogether. As is protagonist Bill Lee’s typewriter – it’s an insect that groans with pleasure as he works it, crowing for him to rim its pulsing sphincter with drugs. Bill Lee is really Burroughs, and Cronenberg’s film is about his becoming a writer – his relationship with his typewriter. Rather than attempting to adapt the book in a literal sense, Cronenberg treated Burroughs’ schizoid prose as a secondary source. He gave it structure, but it remains essentially a bizarre work.
To read more of this article by Tom Graham follow the link: https://lwlies.com/articles/naked-lunch-david-cronenberg-william-burroughs/