Monday January 17, 2011 17:12

Movies #0038, #0039 – Videodrome (1983) and Naked Lunch (1991)

Posted by Michael

Directed by: David Cronenberg
Starring: James Woods, Deborah Harry, Sonja Smits (Videodrome). Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm (Naked Lunch).
First Viewings

Synopsis: In Videodrome, a TV producer finds himself the victim of strange hallucinations after watching a mysterious, pirated video signal called Videodrome. In Naked Lunch, a writer finds himself losing his grip on reality in a drug-fueled haze after he accidentally kills his wife.

I recently saw both of these films, and I figured it was probably appropriate enough to lump them both into one post. Why? The same thing that motivates pretty much everything I do: laziness.

Actually, aside from the obvious (they are both directed by master Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg), the films are fairly similar, and so I don’t think it’s an entirely bizarre notion to talk about them together.

Both movies center around men who begin to hallucinate and perceive the world in increasingly strange ways. I found that this worked very well in Videodrome, and not-so-well in Naked Lunch. Videodrome, for all its weirdness, always maintains some semblance of reality amidst the chaos; there is an intriguing element of trying to discern between what is real and what is imagined. Naked Lunch, on the other hand, almost immediately disposes of reality altogether, plunging head-first into a bizarre, dream-like (or nightmare-like) world in which pretty much anything goes (such as the famous image of a typewriter turning into a giant cockroach). Because of this complete disconnect from reality, I found it hard to ever get particularly involved in the film (beyond, at least, marveling at the ingenuity of Cronenberg’s visuals). The movie feels more like a series of loosely connected set-pieces than a cohesive story.

Videodrome, on the other hand, always manages to strike a good balance between the off-the-wall stuff and the real world. There’s also an interesting undercurrent of mystery (what is Videodrome? Who’s behind it?) that helps to keep the viewer interested. There’s no such through-line in Naked Lunch, which basically feels like an excuse for Cronenberg to indulge his penchant for the bizarre, without much pulling it together in any meaningful way. I also thought that James Woods gave a pretty fantastic performance in Videodrome, which is definitely a reason why the movie works as well as it does (Peter Weller is fine in Naked Lunch, but he just doesn’t have all that much to work with).

Basically: Thumbs up for Videodrome, thumbs down for Naked Lunch.

Buy Videodrome or Naked Lunch on Amazon.

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