Naked Lunch (1991)

There’s no getting around it: “Naked Lunch” is hell of a ride. This infamous adaptation of the source novel by William S. Burroughs is more about the writing of the novel than the novel’s own plot, and in addition, it’s directed by David Cronenberg, so you just know there’s a bunch of weird, creepy sex imagery designed to get under your skin, so it’s certainly not for a modest audience. That being said, there’s no denying that this is a vivid cinematic experience, even by Cronenberg’s standards: The psychosexual nature of the source material is perfect for Cronenberg’s recurring fascination with grotesque sexual imagery, all of which is effectively blended with the movie’s semi-surreal, dream-like narrative. It’s almost like watching “Brazil” and “Communion” at the same time on the same screen, with a dash of Stuart Gordon’s “Re-Animator” making occasional cameo appearances; that’s the best way I can describe what it feels like to watch this movie. Peter Weller’s inscrutability and emotive blankness makes him the perfect unreliable narrator for this wicked, demented tale, but the movie belongs to Ian Holm, who owns every inch of the screen whenever he appears. Cronenberg occasionally flirts with fever-dream-style hallucinatory overload but it’s impressive how he manages to tell a genuinely sad tale of drug addiction, sexual repression and murder all while making the experience feel like you’re watching someone else’s nightmare unfold in real time.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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