In a drug haze, a bug exterminator using his insecticide to get high believes himself to be a government agent and flees to a secret organization after accidently killing his wife. Based on the cult novel by William S. Burroughs.
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Cronenberg's esoteric realisation of Burroughs' whirlwind of literary ideas, remains a morbidly curious treat for the subversive spectator. To label it Kafkaesque or allude to Lynch's latter-made 'Eraserhead' would be reductive. Admittedly, there may be parallels, but there is something singular about William's work.
More than a film about hallucinations, is a film that hallucinates, incorporating in its filmic matter the forms of unreality, that, by a magic trick- in a film that uses the studio like the two versions of "The Thief of Bagdad"- is transmuted into a hyperrealism of the senses. Writing is an act that follows the sacrifice and mingles with the loss, while shooting is the figurative fulfillment of this "petite morte".
One of Cronenberg's few failures, it just doesn't really work at all. There's no sense of delirium you would expect from a 'drug' film. Awesome bug/orifice imagery but it all feels empty, boring and phony, never really reaching 'fever dream' intensity, meandering on and on with the same blank smirk. also, Burroughs depicted as a bland eunuch who wants to fuck Judy Davis more then any of the boys? Huh?
if there's any filmmaker who could adapt the unfilmable naked lunch by william s. burroughs, it's david cronenberg. so, it won't be a surprise if mr. cronenberg did it masterfully. but still, the greatness of this film amazed me. oh, and when i watched this film, my mom entered the room and said, "why does it smell like cockroach here?" coincidence? maybe it's the powder bug.
Full of immersive textures and lighting. I am impressed anew each time I watch it (3rd now) by the story's melding of abstract concepts including mental and physical addiction, sexual ambivalence, and the human impulse to seek answers within the endless, ever-abounding mysteries around us; all of which are directly applicable to me. The Criterion Collection print, which I own, is gorgeous.