#406- Naked Lunch

Quick recap: 

Fun (?) fact:  Seeing as this whole film is just basically one fact after another, here’s the one that shocked me most: The scene where Bill accidentally shoots and kills his wife during a ‘William Tell’ act happened in real life to William S. Burroughs and his wife. He only served 13 days in jail.

me with the boys after the second vaccine

Thoughts and observations: 

I think it’s best to come out and say I had NO idea what was going on through most of this movie. It’s like one of those viral videos where the caption just says ‘you can’t guess what happens! Just watch to the end!’ and I did just that. Not once did I predict correctly what would happen in the next scene, whether it was two typewriters fighting to the death or someone snorting centipede dust. And that’s ok. This movie wasn’t meant for me and once I realized that, I just sat back and enjoyed myself.

The title comes from William S. Burrough’s novel ‘Naked Lunch’ but the movie is actually several of his novels mashed into one as well as a quasi-biography of Burrough’s himself. And seeing as I have not read any of his works or know anything about the author, 95% to 98% of the references went over my head. It’s not necessary to cram before watching this movie, though. I was invested from the first moment. The main character, Bill Lee, is an exterminator whose wife gets addicted to the roach powder he uses. Which brings him to also become addicted, or maybe addicted to the centipede powder that’s supposed to counteract the roach powder. This leads him to talk to a hideous looking roach who tells him to kill his wife because she’s not really human. Which he does accidentally. Maybe. And then typewriters turn into hideous creatures and Lee flees to a place called the InterZone and finds out he’s actually a secret agent of some kind. Honestly, I’m not ever sure what is real and what isn’t. Does he die at the end or does he finally escape to a higher form of consciousness? Or was this all real and he did his agent job? It really doesn’t matter because it was a fun ride to just watch.

I don’t want to say too much about Cronenberg because it’s all been said anyway, but I can’t imagine anyone else directing this movie. The figures were grotesque in a way I don’t have the vocabulary to describe. So, instead enjoy some nightmarish pictures!

Watchability score: 4/5

Up next: Europa Europa

#405- A Place in the Sun

Quick recap: George Eastman takes up his uncle’s offer of working at his company, only to end up knocking a girl up, falling in love with a socialite and getting the electric chair.

I’m really bad at recognizing movie stars so of course I had no idea this was Elizabeth Taylor. I loved her performance and just hoped whoever she was went on to do something special 🙂

Fun (?) fact:  Shelley Winters ( who played Alice) drove white Cadillacs for years after filming to compensate for feeling inferior to Elizabeth Taylor.

Thoughts and observations:

As a rule, I typically stay away from melodramas, but this one hooked me the moment Montgomery Clift appeared on screen.

From there, the plot was a wild ride from start to finish. I don’t remember ever being in a situation where I wanted both the best for every character and the worst. Even Alice, the poor factory whom George (Montgomery Clift) knocks up. She was absolutely a victim in every way but seeing her whine and pout when she was about to be shoved overboard was just too much to put up with from a character.

Even as I write this review, I’m still blown away by how much of a predator George Eastman was, yet I kept hoping things would turn around for him. On his first day at the factory, he was told that the most important rule was not to fraternize with the workers and he literally did just that moments later. And then while walking Alice home from the movies, his hands are all over her even though they had barely spoken before. I hated how pushy he was and knew their relationship would end badly. And I liked him even less when he started dating Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) because he seemed so desperate to appear well off. And yet- as he professed his love for Angela, I couldn’t help myself but melt. I too was annoyed that Alice was around and found myself siding with George. I didn’t think he would murder her but I wanted him to live his life with his true love.

The end of the movie was just as much of a whirlwind and I still can’t decide how I feel about all of it. George was brought to justice as he should’ve been, but once again I found myself siding with him that he didn’t murder Alice. Even as the priest got him to confess that his inaction caused her death, I still wanted a different ending and wanted there to be some twist where everyone lives happily ever after. This movie was both frustrating and absolutely the most entertained I’ve felt in a long time.

Watchability score: 5/5

Up next: Europa Europa

#404- Chungking Express

Quick recap: The first part of the film follows a policeman who wants to fall in love before his cans of pineapple expire. The second half involves a fast food worker in love with a policeman (not the same one). When he doesn’t seem interested, she breaks into his apartment and spruces up the place.

But now I can’t stop thinking about pineapple

Fun (?) fact: The movie is filmed in sequence, with director Wong Kar-Wai writing the next portion of the script the night or morning of shooting.

Thoughts and observations:

There were parts of Chungking Express that were so confusing to me, like trying to figure out what kind of food Faye was making when she worked with her cousin. But then other parts were intimately familiar, like Officer 223 setting an arbitrary expiration on his single life. As most people know, jumping back into a relationship to get over a previous one doesn’t usually end well, but it’s what keeps you going sometimes. The same could be said about vowing to hit on the next woman to walk in the bar, yet Officer 223 does it anyway and ultimately feels better. I loved the ambiguous ending of the first story, as he goes out for a run to expel all wetness from his body. The woman he ‘fell in love’ with never really seemed into him (maybe something to do with her actually being a drug mule and looking for a lost shipment), but the night he spent with her seemed to be what needed to happen.

In the second half of the film, the audience comes across another lovelorn officer- this one goes by 663, who was just dumped by a flight attendant. He is so deeply in denial that it’s over, that he barely notices Faye, the fast food worker who instantly falls in love. And here again, I found myself relating so much to her character. I’ve never broken into my crush’s house and redecorated but I have created a dream world in my mind imagining what life could be like together. The ending of this story is also ambiguous, but maybe less enjoyable for me because I so wanted the two of them to fall in love together. And maybe they did, but it also reminds me how love can feel so consuming in the moment yet not be the end of the world when it fails to happen.

The director’s use of color and staging intimate shots made me realize there is a third love story- this one about Hong Kong. I could’ve just watched scenes of people walking and eating and chatting for hours. It’s a city so alive with possibility. No wonder this people felt it so important to be in love. I also enjoyed the soundtrack, although I admit to tiring of ‘California Dreamin” after the 4th go round. Still, much of Chungking Express reminded me of Manhattan, in that it follows Woody Allen’s weirdo relationship but the setting overpowers the plot in the most powerful way.

Watchability score: 4/5

Up next: A Place in the Sun

#403- When Harry Met Sally

Quick recap: Harry met Sally after college graduation. And then again at an airport. And then at a bookstore. And then they got married!

Fun (?) fact: It was difficult but I did find trivia not related to that orgasm scene: The scenes of married couples talking were real stories but performed by actors.

Thoughts and observations:

  • Although this was my first viewing, this film is iconic enough that there were really no surprises. Except that Carrie Fisher was a main character, but that’s the best kind of surprise.
  • There were many scenes that made me laugh and so many memorable lines! I didn’t find the orgasm scene all that funny but that’s probably because I’ve seen it referenced so many times.
  • The main question in the film about men and women being just friends reminds me of all the earnest conversations I had while dating about this same topic, not realizing it came from a movie. I apologize to everyone who had to sit through one.
  • It’s probably blasphemy to say but I always forget about Meg Ryan as an actress, mostly because I don’t watch many RomComs. When Harry Met Sally reminds me that she is really good at what she does. Oh, and Billy Crystal is in the film too.
  • Is it weird that I was disappointed they got married in the end? After their first time together, part of me hoped they could just stay friends and prove everyone wrong. But I guess that’s sort of the plot of La La Land, isn’t it? And what a bummer of an ending that was, let me tell you. Still, I think 3 months is still an incredibly short time to get married, even if you have known each other for 12 years.
  • And finally- I’m never big on those ‘but what if there were cell phones’ debates people make about older movies, but I did find it funny thinking about Facebook. Had this movie taken place in modern times, Harry and Sally would have friended each other and then moved on with their lives. When they met again in the airport it would’ve been so awkward to know about the other’s life without having seen each other in years. I doubt that would’ve eventually lead to true love, just Harry quickly running away and hoping Sally didn’t see him.

Watchability score: 4/5

Up next: Chungking Express