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Along with Terry Gilliam, David Cronenberg is the one of the few directors whose brain is warped enough to attempt a screen adaption of the nigh unfilmable junky novel ‘Naked Lunch’ by William S. Burroughs.

It was made in 1991 but I’ve only now gotten to see it for the first time and discovered it to be a bizarre combination of the source text, Burroughs’ own life and  ‘Metamorphosis’.

While suffering frequent sporadic paranoid hallucinations the typewriters used by the Burroughs’ alter ego Bill Lee (played by robocop Peter Weller) turn into talking bugs – their ‘lips’ resemble talking assholes.  In one horrific scene a bug machine eats another.  The Gregor Samsa association is made explicit when Lee’s wife Joan (Judy Davis) shoots up on the roach powder used for exterminating insects – she describes the effect  “a Kafka high – you feel like a bug!” .

When Lee kills Joan in a William Tell game gone wrong – as happened in real life with Burroughs – his Doctor (Benway) prescribes a cure writing ‘reports’ in Interzone Inc, a free port in North Africa described as “an engorged parasite on the underbelly of the West”.

Not surprisingly, things go from bad to worse as Lee desperately tries to write surrounded by pimps, freaks and more horrific creatures, one of which dispenses recreational fluids when it likes what you’ve written. An elite core centipede is the most disgusting of these.

Any attempt to describe a narrative structure would be worthless – the movie functions like Burroughs fiction which  may have a start , middle and end although not necessarily in that order.

Like Gilliam’s ‘Fear And Loathing In Los Vegas’ its purpose is described by the Ginsberg character as “a  study of “the philosophy of drug use as it relates to artistic endeavour”.

The film is bizarre, sick, tasteless and depraved –  in other words, classic Cronenberg and pretty good stuff. A great soundtrack by Howard Shore and Ornette Coleman  too.