Naked Lunch

Naked Lunch

3.7 18
Director: David Cronenberg, Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm

Cast: David Cronenberg, Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm

     
 

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This cinematic/literary hybrid fuses motifs from Beat writer William S. Burroughs's novel of the same name with elements of the author's biography and plenty of the cerebral alienation and biomorphic special effects fans of creepy cult director David Cronenberg have come to expect. Bill Lee (Peter Weller) wants to write, but he exterminates bugs to pay the bills. His

Overview

This cinematic/literary hybrid fuses motifs from Beat writer William S. Burroughs's novel of the same name with elements of the author's biography and plenty of the cerebral alienation and biomorphic special effects fans of creepy cult director David Cronenberg have come to expect. Bill Lee (Peter Weller) wants to write, but he exterminates bugs to pay the bills. His wife, Joan (Judy Davis), becomes addicted to Bill's bug powder dust, and soon he joins her in a world of unorthodox hallucinogens; he visits the kindly yet sinister Dr. Benway (Roy Scheider) and walks away with his first dose of the black meat -- a narcotic made from the flesh of the giant aquatic Brazilian centipede. Soon, monstrous beetles are whispering conspiracy theories in Bill's ears and his nebbish writer friends Hank (Nicholas Campbell) and Martin (Michael Zelniker) are sleeping with Joan under his nose. When a party trick involving a liquor glass and a gun goes awry, killing Joan, Bill flees to Interzone, a Mediterranean city full of talking insectoid typewriters, double agents, offbeat aesthetes, and plots within plots. As he navigates this paranoid landscape, Bill begins ingesting another drug called mugwump jism and writes fragments that Hank and Martin soon assemble into a novel under the title Naked Lunch. As beat literature aficionados know, Interzone is based on Tangiers -- the city where Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch. The incident in the film in which Hank and Martin appropriate Bill's writing and have it published closely approximates the real-life circumstances of the novel's publication, although it was Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac who helped out the real-life Burroughs. The William Tell incident that kills Bill's wife is also drawn from the author's real life. "William Lee" is both Burroughs' literary stand-in and the name under which he published his first autobiographical novel Junky. Ian Holm, who plays Joan Frost's husband, Tom, would appear in Cronenberg's similarly experimental eXistenZ several years later.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Brian J. Dillard
Given that William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch isn't so much a novel as a collection of literary fragments that riff on corporate culture, human depravity, and sexual outrage as often as they filter the author's actual life as a bisexual, expatriate drug addict, it's a wonder the book ever became a movie at all. "Unfilmable" was the adjective most often applied, especially when it was announced that maverick Canadian director David Cronenberg would give it a shot. Cronenberg was hardly faithful to either the contents or the precise spirit of the author's nightmarishly misanthropic beat masterpiece, but he did manage to transform elements of the book and the overall Burroughs mythos into a coherent entry in his own oeuvre of stylized alienation. Most any literal description of the author's prose -- or the film's plot -- will fail to drive home the one element that makes both so enjoyable: the absurdist humor of both auteurs' visions. Talking bugs, amphibian spies, and arcane narcotics sound creepy, and they are. But as with the book itself, Cronenberg's film is full of deadpan humor that wallows in the excretory excesses of his visual metaphors while also driving home their aptness and winking all the while. It helps that his cast is so game, from the ever-shrewish Judy Davis in not one, but two tightly wound roles to the reliable Roy Scheider and Ian Holm and the too-too tight-lipped Peter Weller. The viscous special effects, vivid cinematography, and distorted period costume design all conspire to conjure up a dream-logic 1950s of squares, hipsters, and secret agents awash in neon, cigarette smoke, and junkie delirium. Cutting up the raw materials of the cut-up king himself, Cronenberg fashions a film as idiosyncratically inspired as its source material.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/09/2013
UPC:
0715515105019
Original Release:
1991
Rating:
R
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
A
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound]
Time:
1:55:00
Sales rank:
17,805

Special Features

Audio Commentary featuring Cronenberg and actor Peter Weller; Naked Making Lunch, a 1992 Documentary by Chris Radley about the making of the film; Special effects gallery, featuring artwork and phots alongside an essay by film writer Jody Duncan; Collection of original marketing materials; Audio recording of William S. Burroughs reading from his novel Naked Lunch; Gallery of photos taken by poet Allen Ginsberg of Burroughs; Plus: a Booklet featuring reprinted pieces by film critic Janet Maslin, critic and novelist Gary Indiana, filmmaker and writer Chris Rodley, and Burroughs

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Peter Weller William Lee
Judy Davis Joan Frost/Joan Lee
Ian Holm Tom Frost
Julian Sands Yves Cloquet
Roy Scheider Dr. Benway
Monique Mercure Fadela
Nicholas Campbell Hank
Michael Zelniker Martin
Robert A. Silverman Hans
Joseph Scorsiani Kiki
Claude Aflalo Forgeman
Peter Boretski 2nd Exterminator/Creature Voices
Deirdre Bowen Actor
Michael Caruana Pawnbroker
Ornette Coleman The Ornette Coleman Trio
Yuval Daniel Hafid
John Friesen Hauser
Laurent Hazout Interzone Boy
Howard Jerome A.J. Cohen
Justin Louis 3rd Exterminator
Joseph di Mambro Interzone Boy
Sean McCann O'Brien
Barre Phillips The Ornette Coleman Trio
Kurt Reis 1st Exterminator
Julian Richings 4th Exterminator
Jim Yip The Chink

Technical Credits
David Cronenberg Director,Screenwriter
Deirdre Bowen Casting
Ornette Coleman Songwriter
Denise Cronenberg Costumes/Costume Designer
Bryan Day Sound/Sound Designer
Elinor Rose Galbraith Set Decoration/Design
Gabriella Martinelli Co-producer
James McAteer Art Director
Ronald Sanders Editor
Howard Shore Score Composer
Carol Spier Production Designer
Marilyn Stonehouse Production Manager
Peter Suschitzky Cinematographer
Jeremy Thomas Producer
Chris Walas Special Effects
William S. Burroughs Source Author

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Naked Lunch 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
DrewBurns More than 1 year ago
Naked Lunch is hard to explain and, perhaps, harder to understand. It is an ADULTS ONLY drama that mixes and muddles metaphors that are both clear and commonplace in many contemporary American dramas. Drugs and drug use are taken in their most abstract forms and utilized to negate much of what is shown on screen and makes it, more or less, the viewers window into the drug fueled hallucinations or intuitive musings of a secret agent whose cover is so deep that he is rarely even aware of his mission. Some may view it as drug induced hallucination film, others as a down turned science fiction espionage drama, both are intentional and represent only a few of the many ways this film can be taken. No matter how you take the plot, be aware that this film is not a family film, unless your family has all read the book to which some portion of the film is derived.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This classic film-story, beautifully presented, written by the son of a Fortune 500 company who saw through the paste-board reality of post WWII America, does all it was intended to do: captures the viewer's attention, lulls one into a false sense of rhythm and reality and then shatters it utterly and irrepairably -- loss of innocence for the American gentry. Must have material. As good as it gets.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A brilliantly conceived and executed fever-dream of a film, filled with darkly grotesque imagery and memorably twisted characters. Cronenberg skillfully creates a shadowy claustrophobic world where, in seamless fashion, one man’s drug-induced hallucinations intertwine with and become indistinguishable from his normal waking life. Peter Weller is perfectly cast in the role of William Lee, a man whose perpetually stoic and deadpan demeanor ultimately helps him navigate and survive the deepening perils of his own drug addiction, even as his life spirals into nightmare. Supporting cast members (especially Judy Davis as Weller’s adulterous bug-powder-addicted wife) also deliver credible performances in smaller but still-crucial roles. Peter Suschitzky’s cinematography is excellent, giving Cronenberg’s mid-1950s New York sets a gritty, seedy lived-in look. The physical appearance of the “bug-writers” and the even more monstrous-looking “Mugwumps” is artfully conveyed, though decidedly unappetizing. Also noteworthy is Peter Boretski’s distinctively creepy-sounding creature voice (a role on par with Douglas Rain’s ubiquitous HAL 9000 character in 2001: A Space Odyssey), alternately soothing, scolding and menacing as he matter-of-factly explains to Weller the amoral Byzantine workings of Interzone. In the pantheon of movies devoted to drug-addiction, this is one trip you shouldn’t miss.
DebbiHB More than 1 year ago
Strange but good movie This is one of the strangest movie I have seen. It had a very strange story line that I was interested in watching till the end to see how it unravels. The movie is about a guy who finds a portal to John Malcovich's brain. Anyone who goes into the portal can watch what John Malcovich is doing and ''be'' John Malcovich for 15 minutes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing! Cronenberg does a great job of filming the unfilmable. One of his best pictures.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very weird to say the least. The blu ray makes the picture detail stand out. Check out the detail of the bugs! This isn't Cronenberg's best, but if you are a fan of his then you already know about this movie. Others beware! It is trippy!! I enjoy it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Peter Weller does a great job but the script falls apart. this is the remake of the book and instead of dope follows around a bug man. It gets confusing only noting that Bill Burroughs shot his wife in the head on accident, wink-wink-then he sucks up bug dust and goes into the interzone.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
David Cronenberg film based on a William S. Burroughs novel. A mystery science fiction/horror satire. No real plot structure or purpose, the film is simply innundated with homosexual/sexually depraved innuendos from beginning to end. The film is utterly grotesque in every conceivable way! The special effects are cheap and unimpressive. An average porno film has more creativity and plot than this worthless piece of self-flattery. I'm not shy to shock value entertainment and will usually watch even the worst of films to the end. This was too stupid and grotesque to bother reaching its conclusion. I urge you to spare yourselves the agony I have had to endure watching this filth.