Naked Lunch + Burroughs Cut-Up Films

“During the performances an unusual number of strange articles such as bags, pants, shoes, and coats were left behind, lost property, probably out of complete disorientation.” — Roy Underhill, assistant manager at the Cinephone, London (theater showing the initial theatrical run of Cut-Ups)

In the 1960s, William Burroughs and collaborator Bryon Gysin made huge strides with the literary “cut-up” technique: take a sheet of text, scissor it into bits, toss the bits around and re-assemble — with the finished product’s coherence (or insanity) left to chance. Taking the form to the silver screen, Burroughs and partner Antony Balch explored fertile, ultra- experimental territory with Towers Open Fire (1963) and Cut-Ups (1967), two pioneering works of total mindslaying that are the ultimate in translating Burroughs’ indescribable style onto film. Taken together, this duo of shorts will leave you forever changed, and ready to devour the lone Beat’s entire bibliography.

NAKED LUNCH – approx. 10:30pm
Who but David Cronenberg would’ve ever tackled the task of filming William Burroughs’ infamously “unfilmable” Beat Generation masterwork — and who else would’ve reveled so deliriously in Naked Lunch’s taboo-shredding transgressivity? First published in ‘59 (and the subject of both an obscenity trial and many local bannings), Burroughs’ non-linear paean to homosexuality, espionage and a psyche-shattering level of drug use brought Eisenhower-era audiences to their knees — and Cronenberg’s post-modern adaptation is as freewheeling as possible within the limits of commercial filmmaking, combining the novel’s text, parts of other early Burroughs works, biographical sketches and the director’s own flights of fucked-up fancy to produce a movie experience flush with palpable paranoia and zonked imagination. Drawling like a champ, the incomparable Peter Weller is Burroughs’ on-screen surrogate; as well, heavy hitters like Judy Davis, Ian Holm and Roy Scheider are a Greek chorus’ worth of supporting insanity, and the jazzy orchestral skronk courtesy of Ornette Coleman and regular Cronenberg composer Howard Shore is the perfect skit-skat accompaniment to the film’s upside-down noir vibes. Long live the Mugwump, and his effervescent juice!
Naked Lunch Dir. David Cronenberg, 1991, 35mm, 115 min.

Watch the trailer for “Naked Lunch”!
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Watch an excerpt from “The Cut-Ups”!
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