"As a devout Burroughs fan, of course I was a little hesitant to view this movie initially. And having read the book "Naked Lunch" prior to watching the film, I was at a loss as to what I expected. Certainly there was no way this book could translate into a movie...even "The Wall" director Alan Parker would have been lost. In essence, Cronenberg didn't attempt to recreate the book verbatim. Instead he deftly interwove Burroughs' life with some of the routines and rants from the book. This movie is not for the fainthearted as it shows man-sized mugwumps and talking typwriter/insects who are really operatives for a covert attempt to penetrate Interzone, using a hapless writer, Bill Lee, as their chief spy. Definitive moments in Burroughs' life, such as his relationship with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and the death of his wife Joan at his own hand are featured in the movie. It also gives a surreal biography to the birth of the writer in Burroughs as he attempts to write his way out of the guilt of his wife's death and the drugs that numbed the difficulties of his life. Those who think that this movie had no real plot or if they did think there was a plot that the plot wasn't linear, then they can't be that big a fan of Burroughs. His life was not normal, his fans are not normal, and his mode of thinking was, frankly, insane. Cronenberg does a brilliant job getting inside the mind of the writer, the genius, the man, William S. Burroughs. Take a trip into his mind, ladies and gentlemen, and be changed forever."
Sad, funny, horrific and intriguing
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm both a Cronenberg fan and a Burroughs fan, so maybe my review of this film lacks objectivity. That being said, I think Naked Lunch is quite an achievement, not only visually (Chris Walas' creatures are wonderful, Denise Cronenberg's costumes are elegant and authentic to the film's period), but in terms of screenwriting and in the realm of ideas. Burroughs' novel could be said to be about a number of things, but I believe the film is mainly about how our appetites and urges manifest themselves if they are not acknowledged. Bill Lee, the protagonist in the movie, spends much of the first part of the film avoiding his need to write. After he flees to Interzone, he begins to hallucinate that his typewriter is a giant talking bug that orders him to compile "reports" on various and sundry people and subjects, such as his sexual proclivities, his relationships with friends and acquaintances as well as his need to have a reason to create. Much is made, subtly about the connection between mental imbalance, orgasms and the creative process.Cronenberg has picked up on a theme that runs through all of Burroughs' writing, namely the consequences of living in a society that labels immoral all healthy forms of personal release. For Burroughs, and by extension Cronenberg, this includes sex, artistic expression and liberated use of language. In the novel, being denied these outlets leads people to all kinds of perversions of personal power, drug addiction and insanity. Cronenberg uses different means, but shows his audience the psychic toll of denying one's deep personal needs.In all, a fantastic hallucinatory ride, with a great cast (especially Peter Weller, who has never been better chosen for a role) and a whole feast for discussion by thoughtful filmgoers everywhere."
Amy Balot | pa | 12/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"David Cronenberg's dazzling sci-fi imagery meets William S. Burroughs' dark humor in this bizarre cult film. Peter Weller plays William Lee, an exterminator who can't seem to keep track of his bug powder. His writer friends hint that it may be a `domestic problem.' Indeed, he finds that his wife is stealing his bug powder for its narcotic effects. At a party with two friends (meant to be Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg), Lee nods to his wife and says, `About time for our William Tell act...' Joan balances her highball glass on her head and closes her eyes. Bill isn't such a good shot that night, and accidentally shoots a hole through Joan's forehead. The glass falls to the floor, intact. Soon the police are after Lee. They lock him in a room with a giant bug, who tells him his real identity. It starts him on his journey to Interzone, a strange hallucinatory world inhabited by talking insects, living typewriters, and alien/insect mugwumps that secrete intoxicating juices from the penises on their heads. Lee has a long strange trip in Interzone. His insect typewriter sends him on missions where he meets strange people and even stranger creatures. And all the while he is still on the run from the police. David Cronenberg's screenwriting and directing skills were in top form for this movie. Once called `the king of venereal horror,' his trademark grotesque sexual imagery and bug obsessions, as seen in Videodrome and The Fly, have been honed to give the perfect nightmarish effect. Surely there couldn't be a better man to bring Burroughs' Interzone to the big-screen. The acting was also superb. Wearing a fedora and an anonymous tan overcoat, and speaking in Burroughs' low monotonous drawl, Weller is a very believable William Lee. Judy Davis was also excellent, bringing to life the most three-dimensional portrayal of Joan Vollmer Burroughs ever. The fabulously surreal special effects are sure to draw in Cronenberg fans, and fans of Burroughs will be equally entertained by samplings of the original book's `routines' and parallels to Burroughs' own life. However, Cronenberg isn't known for making accessible movies, and when coupled with Burroughs' characters, this certainly isn't a film for everyone. Rated `R' for heavy drug content, adult language, and `bizarre eroticism,' there are scenes portraying bug powder injection (a heroin metaphor), typewriters with genitalia, and a gay sex scene in which Julian Sands turns into a parrot. But for all the "adult" content, this is a very intelligent, complex, and inspired movie that its viewers will not soon forget."
A Kafka high.
The Lord of All That is Pedantic | San Antonio, TX USA | 02/17/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"David Cronenberg has done something very interesting in his film version of the book by William Burroughs. Attempting to faithfully follow the book's plot would have been a hopeless enterprise (and an X-rated movie); instead, Cronenberg wraps short sequences from the novel and intertwines them with Burroughs' own life. This is not only completely appropriate for this unique author, but also conveys the tone and structure of the book. In this respect, although the 'plot' of the book is not followed with slavish respect, this is one of the most successful book-to-film translations.There are interesting (if brief) portraits of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac (although in the movie Ginsberg is portrayed as pursuing Burroughs, when in fact Burroughs was in love with Ginsberg). The film also shows the accident in which Burroughs shot his wife, and his meeting with Paul Bowles in Tangiers. In the plot of the movie, Bill Lee is instructed by giant insects to infiltrate Tangiers and write 'reports' which eventually become the text of _Naked Lunch_. All of the events of the movie are shown from Bill Lee's drug-altered perception, so that most of the film's scenes have to 'translated' from the metaphorical to the actual by the viewer. In spite of other reports, the movie is quite coherent and linear, detailing Bill Lee's emotional recovery from drugs and the death of his wife as he becomes a writer. Perhaps 'recovery' is the wrong word; what Lee learns is to use them as material for his writing.One warning: Cronenberg's decision to use elaborate special effects to show Bill Lee's reality works brilliantly, but it can be quite disgusting. The movie is not for weak stomachs (which again fits both the book's title and content exactly)."
It's a literary high
SPM | Eugene, Oregon | 11/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cronenberg's version of Naked Lunch is a brilliant combination of Burroughs' novel and Burroughs' life. He blends the true story of Burroughs life (and his reason for writing) with the surreal dark-comedy 'routines' of the novel until they become one story. The story is a quiet hallucination featuring exterminators, addiction, typewriters in the form of insects, typewriters that grow genitals, a global conspiracy of intelligence agents, the drug trade, homosexual ambiguity, writer's block, accidental murder, and literary paranoia. None of these elements is explored completely. Instead, Cronenberg touches on each one until they form some strange, underlying logic.This edition of the DVD has enough extras to make it the only version of Naked Lunch you'll ever have to buy. (They won't release a bigger, better edition later.) The BBC documentary is okay. It's about 45 minutes long, giving Cronenberg and William Burroughs a lot of time to speak. (Burroughs is particularly good, with a dry sense of humor and a habit of saying obvious truths that make people uneasy.) The second disc also has stills from the special effects team, showing how the various creatures and organic typewriters were developed.But it's the first disc --- the movie itself --- that makes it worth buying and watching. The special audio track, shared by Peter Weller and Cronenberg, adds a lot of useful background information. The film itself is bright and sharp, a perfect example of DVD clarity. I highly recommend this DVD to anyone who is interested in the best films of the 1990s. Naked Lunch didn't make as big an impact in theaters as it did in book stores, but it should have."