Naked Lunch (1991) Poster


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Introduction to the New Flesh
Gilles Tran22 October 1999
Movies in the last years have become more uniform, more streamlined, particularly in the US. As a result, the film market is full of sleek, entertaining movies that the whole world goes to see, but these movies have nothing but harmless baby teeth. Fortunately, people like Lynch or Cronenberg still do movies that may be considered defective by most people, but that bite into the flesh with pointy canines. The Naked Lunch has very sharp teeth indeed. It's supposed to be an adaptation from a William Burrough's book, which doesn't make sense anyway. It starts as the story of a failed writer whose wife becomes addicted to an insecticide powder... It goes downhill after this relatively sane and normal beginning. It's a ride, a drug-induced nightmare full of horribly funny visions (the sort of visions that artists used centuries ago to represent hell). Anuses talk. Aliens sip alcohol in bars. People get impaled. Typewriters turn into bugs. Liquids ooze. You may say it's flawed, or disgusting, or ridiculous, or boring. I saw it with someone who absolutely hated it. But the fact that this person still keeps talking about it 8 years after seeing it says a lot about the Naked Lunch, at a time when we tend to forget blockbusters a few hours after watching them. The Naked Lunch is here - in your mind - to stay.
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Twisted Film concerning twisted minds
hohumdedum220 November 2003
Naked Lunch seems to be just totally incomprehensible upon first viewing. However, after watching it again, you start to understand more and more. Upon multiple viewings, you really get a feel for what's transpiring before your eyes. The ultimate message is that it is really just a metaphor for heroin addiction, even though it's so much more deeper than that. It's an intricate study of a man, William S. Burroughs, who was a heroin addict, and among other things one of the most significant Beat authors ever. The film delves deeply into the psyche of Burroughs and takes you on a trip in his mind and your own. There are touches of reality and many flashes of paranoia, and it is all done with style and grace. Seriously one of the best films about an author, Naked Lunch will certainly stand the test of time against other films which may seem at first entertaining, but lose their luster upon multiple viewings. Whereas, Naked Lunch, in my opinion, never will. 10 out of 10.
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Superb adaptation!
Infofreak21 August 2001
I'm always dubious when books I love are made into movies. They never QUITE translate and something is always lost. The idea of filming 'Naked Lunch' is even more difficult than usual, because it isn't really a novel with a coherent, chronological narrative, more a sequence of surreal, absurdly dark and funny "skits". As such it would be impossible to make a successful movie out of the raw material Burroughs created. Luckily Cronenberg (and who would have been better equipped to make this?) has cannily blended scenes from the book with incidents inspired by William Burroughs real life, and made it work. Very well.

Fans of Burroughs are sure to be more satisfied with this than the more literal and less imaginative 'Beat'. Non-fans will hopefully be inspired to read Burroughs' work after watching this. Peter Weller is perfectly cast as Bill Lee, and the supporting cast are also fine. I like most of Cronenberg's output, and I would rate 'Naked Lunch' as one of his most successful movies, and the best depiction so far of the Beat sensibility.
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And Here I Thought "Fear & Loathing" Was a Trip
Rich Dunbeck22 July 2005
"Exterminate all rational thought. This is the conclusion I have come to".

So says Bill Lee, the central character of David Cronenberg's adaptation of William Burroughs' bizarre novel "Naked Lunch". The film takes the novel, replaces the characters with Burroughs, his family, and his friends, and then gives them all the names of characters from the book anyway. Once you sort that conundrum out and stop thinking rationally you can begin to understand the film. But only begin. I don't think there is any way to fully understand "Naked Lunch".

Bill Lee is an exterminator who, along with his wife, has become addicted to bug repellent powder. One night, while on a bit of a bender, Bill accidentally shoots his wife, Joan, in the head during a game of William Tell. Following this, he uses the powder to go on a seemingly endless trip, ripe with sinister cabals, talking bugs, and journalistic endeavors.

What the film theorizes is that this is actually the tale of how Burroughs wrote the book "Naked Lunch". Indeed, Burroughs did shoot his wife the way Bill does in the movie, but one wonders if Burroughs actually went on the trip we see in the film. "Naked Lunch" is akin to "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" in it's over-the-top depiction of drug use as literary inspiration. "Naked Lunch" is actually a bit weirder to me than "Fear and Loathing", but I guess that's the same as saying one Queer Eye Guy is gayer than another. How can you be sure and, in the end, what's the difference? I'll skip over trying to compare Burroughs' trip to Dr. Thompson's. I think my brain would explode if I tried.

David Cronenberg, cinematic master of the macabre, struck gold with "Naked Lunch". Here we have one of Cronenberg's most fully realized fantasies. It's sick, disturbing, and confusing and, in these ways, it almost reaches the level of "VideoDrome", Cronenberg's true masterpiece and the most outright disturbing film I've ever seen. The creatures that Cronenberg dreamed up (based, of course, on Burroughs' warped ideas) are incredible. The seven-foot-tall Mugwumps (modeled after the physical appearance of Burroughs) creeped me out, and the half-beetle/half-typewriter creatures with talking sphincters are some of the grossest creatures I've ever seen on screen. These are things that Cronenberg delights in.

Peter Weller finally escaped from the shadow of "RoboCop" with this film. Ironically, the characters are similar. Both Robo and Bill Lee are monotone speaking, emotionless people. The difference being that Robo is made from forklift parts held together with duct tape and glue and Bill is human. Or at least I think he is. Nothing is certain in "Naked Lunch". Weller captures William Burroughs expertly. Judy Davis shows her range in the dual role of Joan Lee, Bill's wife, and Joan Frost, Bill's imagined lover. Joan Lee is drug-addled and loose; Joan Frost is uptight and needs to be taught how to be free. Davis makes the two women so different that it's almost impossible to tell it's the same actress in both parts.

If you like Burroughs, see this film. If you like Croneberg, see this film. If you want a simple, pleasant film...stay far away. :Naked Lunch" is a pornographically perverted look at the complexities of drug abuse and the difficulties of the writing process. I don't use the word pornographically lightly. This is as extreme a movie as I've ever seen, especially coming from the Hollywood system. It's icky, it's gross, it's disturbing. It's also a masterpiece.
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A masterpiece of interpretive surrealism for Burroughs fans
mstomaso15 February 2005
Lots of people will hate this film, and some will love it.

The bottom line is, if you enjoy, respect, or feel that you understand the work of William S. Burroughs, you should see this film. If you don't know what I am talking about, you should probably not see this film.

The following pedantic and potentially inflammatory review, like this film, pulls no punches and makes no apologies for itself. Read on if you dare.


If any three of the following conditions apply see Naked Lunch:


1. ...know what the term "visual metaphor" means.

2. ...are a Burroughs, Kerouac or Ginsburg fan.

2a. ...are not a fan, but know and respect Burroughs, Kerouac or Ginsburg

3. ...can't see how the book Naked Lunch could make a good film.

4. ... believe that Peter Weller is an underrated actor.

5. ...thought any of the following films were 'lightweight': Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, The Last Wave, Heavenly Creatures, Dead Ringers.

6. ...have lived in the New York area for 15 or more years.

7. ...know the relationship between improvisational jazz, poetry, and modern art.

8. ...think you understand what Andy Warhol was trying to do.

9. ... are curious about what the process of writing a novel is like.

10. ...spend a lot of time arguing with inanimate objects.

11. ...without knowing the content of this film, can see a potential relationship between sexual ambivalence, guilt, paranoia, addiction, typewriters and over-sized talking insects.

You should NOT see this film if any of the following apply:


1. ...consider homosexual love to be evil, wrong, and something you can not sympathize with or understand.

2. ...use the phrase "he's on drugs" to explain behavior and ideas that do not make sense to you.

3. not like or respect Burroughs, Kerouac or Ginsburg, and you know who they are.

4. have a concept of challenging literature as the latest John Irving novel (no offense to Mr Irving intended - he's easily as great as Burroughs, just sort of mainstream and pop).

5. films which you can walk away from easily.

6. ...don't want to see any film which requires a second viewing to feel as if you've really got any of it.

7. ...view films strictly as a form of entertainment.

8. ...without knowing the content of this film, you can not imagine a potential relationship between sexual ambivalence, guilt, paranoia, addiction, typewriters and over-sized talking insects.

9. ...don't care to understand most of the following review.

10. ...consider ambiguity and loose ends in a film to be "plot holes" and consider any film which has them to be 'flawed'.


William S. Burroughs is widely regarded as one of America's greatest writers of fiction. A friend and mentor to Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsburg, Burroughs helped to create the genres of 'beat' - American literary high modernism, and/or post-modernism. He provides highly tactile ironic, seductively repulsive descriptions of the everyday which are at once accurate, fragmented and surreal - in other words - Burroughs recreates the feeling and mood of his time and his experience with hermeneutic precision.

Cronenberg's Naked Lunch is an amalgamation of Cronenberg's interpretation and experience of reading Burroughs, Burroughs own life, and Burrough's legendary novel, Naked Lunch. There are six or more plots operating in six or more interacting layers throughout the film, and the action centers exclusively on Burrough's alter-ego, Bill Lee, as he attempts to discover the relationships between all of these plots. The plots I identify (and an interested viewer will generally be able to identify many more that this) are Burrough's relationship with Joan, Lee's relationship with Joan, Lee's drug addiction, Burrough's drug addiction, Lee's investigations into the secret society of drug trafficking at the edge of the world in Interzone, Burrough's struggle to create/discover himself. However, the theme of the film is more an issue of the Lee/Burroughs character trying and, in the end, failing, to make sense of the connections between these plots.

It is a very self-conscious, personal, brilliantly developed and visually intense film. Yet, despite its self-exposure and openness, the film maintains a certain distance from its audience, as if it has taken on the life given it by Cronenberg and Burroughs and established its own unique personality, which will keep its audience at a certain distance. To really appreciate this, you must watch the film at least a few times.

It is especially significant that Burroughs gave his approval for this project. Burroughs' writing is intensely personal and artistic, and his willingness to allow Cronenberg to position himself and his experience of Burrough's work within the film, and to decenter Naked Lunch is as powerful a testimony to Burrough's own integrity as an artist as it is to Cronenberg's vision.

Most of the people who acted in this film really wanted to be involved in it and it shows. Ian Holm and Roy Scheider are always great. Peter Weller, a big Burroughs fan and a severely underrated actor gives what may be the performance of his lifetime, Judy Davis and Julian Sands are both perfectly cast and powerful in their roles.

This films imagery is necessarily disturbing, disorienting, and, at times, quite comic. Very much in keeping with the feel of Burrough's work.

See it. You don't have to like it to respect it.
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a bug's eye view of the creative process
Philby-316 June 1999
Films about writers and the creative process are not generally action-packed, but this unusual piece has plenty of incident. The action takes place largely inside the mind of "William Lee" (William S. Burroughs) whose first book "Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict" dealt with his struggle against heroin addiction. "The Naked Lunch", set in the early 1950s, could be described as telling how that book came to be written. Lee does it tough. After "drying out" he has a job as a pest exterminator, killing cockroaches with powder from a cannister. He discovers that his wife Joan, still an addict, is shooting up with the bug powder and having sex openly with two of his literary friends, Hank and Martin. He then manages to kill her accidentally with his pistol ("I guess it's about time for our William Tell routine"). He flees the country and washes up in "Interzone" (Tangier - then an "international" city).

He tries to write but suffers from frequent hallucinations. He imagines his typewriter is a giant speaking bug whose mission is to act as his "Interzone" spyforce controller. He becomes involved with another expatriate literary couple, Tom and Joan Frost, and imagines that Tom is trying to kill his wife. Naturally he seduces the wife. Then he discovers he has a taste for gay sex, very easily indulged in locally, where there is a gorgeous willing boy such as Kiki ready to slide off the nearest bar stool. There is competition though from various other slimy types, including a rich gay predatory Swiss expatriate, Yves.

Somehow, the book gets written, and Hank and Martin show up just as Lee bottoms out in psychotic despair. They help him piece it together and head off back to New York, leaving Lee to "Interzone" and his hallucinations.

It takes a bit of discipline to watch this film - never has the creative process looked quite so destructive of the writer. Yet the whole thing has a lightness of touch about it. Lee never quite goes right over the edge and is able to observe himself with a certain amount of ironic detachment. At the same time, it is clear that the death of his wife has affected him deeply, both in terms of loss and guilt. The typewriter bugs are a cute touch. Burroughs was the grandson of the founder of the Burroughs office machinery empire, the man who patented the first practical adding machine - the mechanical bug runs in the family it seems. Abusive psychiatry also gets a send up.

As Lee, Peter Weller has a face as impassive as a homicide cop almost regardless of the turmoil within (after all, he made the role of Robocop his own). But he is a "tough guy" on the point of melt-down. Judy Davis, looking just right, plays with plenty of conviction both Joans (who in Lee's fevered brain are the same person). Ian Holm is good as Tom, the nasty older writer who is quite happy to lend his wife for sexual purposes but woe betide the man who damages his precious Arabic typewriter. Julian Peters as Yves radiated menace but overall was a bit of a cardboard-cutout, not helped by his dress and appearance, which seemed to have come straight from "Brideshead Revisited" (Sebastian in Morocco).

David Cronenberg as a director has certainly got a reputation for weird films ("The Fly", "Crash") but this offering is relatively restrained It was something of a pity that "Interzone" was a studio set somewhere (Canada?) but this is low-budget stuff after all. Unlike the bugs in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", these ones have a story to tell, though it's a painful one. Like Hunter Thompson, Burroughs was a great prose writer and the film has plenty of good lines. No-one could view heroin addiction with equanimity after seeing this film, but there is no moralising. As bug agent Clark Nova put it in the film:

"Just remember this. All agents defect, and all resisters sell out. That's the sad truth, Bill. And a writer? A writer lives the sad truth like anyone else. The only difference is, he files a report on it."
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Filming the Unfilmable... why not?
ah`Pook14 October 1999
This film of 'Naked Lunch' is the first of Cronenberg's Trilogy

of filming three of the most challenging literary works of the

20th Century, and arguably the most difficult... as anyone who's

read Burroughs' 1959 novel can attest, in conventional terms it

is a book without a cohesive plot or even structure, largely

assembled from the paranoid rambling letters of the world's most

notorious drug addict. Cronenberg's approach to the material is

ingenious in that he attempts to fictionalize the circumstances

under which the book was written rather than trying to weave a

storyline from the mass of twisted plot threads which comprise

the text. The cast is impeccable, particularly Peter Weller and Judy Davis

as the leads, Ian holm as a psuedo-Paul Bowles, and Cronenberg

regulars Robert A. Silverman as Hans and Nicholas Campbell as

Kerouac-ish Hank. Julian Sands and Roy Scheider don't quite

infuse their roles with the ridiculousness of their counterparts

from the novel, but their cameos are brief and don't detract

from the overall effect. The overall effect being a hypnotic, schizophrenic blend of

biography and folklore, equal parts Cronenberg and Burroughs, a

self-tortured portrait of the creative process. To the

director's credit, he relies on the script (his own) and the

performances over visual trickery or stock travelogue scenery to

set the mood and propel the action. The astonishing soundtrack,

by the superb Howard Shore, underscores the drug-filled malaise

of this Tangerine dream perfectly... it lacks any musical sense

of time and therefore hangs over the proceedings like a

mysterious haze. Haunting, powerful cinema... but most

definitely not for everyone. Wise up the marks before laying

this on them.
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Not easy to watch but an imaginative trip
bob the moo4 January 2004
New York 1953. Bill Lee is a bug exterminator who follows his wife down the road of using the bug powder as a hallucinatory drug. When he is picked up by the police for suspected drug use he is left in the cell with a large bug that tells him that he is on a mission and must watch his wife. When he accidentally kills his wife he flees to Interzone to prepare his report, increasingly losing his grip on what is real and what is not.

I have seen this movie several times and am always taken in by it. In terms of narrative it is not the strongest film you'll ever see. In all honesty the plot is pretty thin and the film is best seen as a journey into destruction with Lee's drug addled writer slowly but surely losing grip on reality with every passing moment. The journey is reasonably interesting, even if it doesn't have enough pace to really be fascinating. What does hold the attention is the imagination of the film and it's ability to put onscreen a decent representation of Lee's hallucinations.

The effects are very good but it is their use that is better. While it does have a certain amount of gore, the creatures and hallucinations are actual characters (creepy characters at that) that are used well within the story, rather than just being effects or gore. The cast can't all say that and some of them are distinctly average at times. Weller is as good as ever in a dead eyed performance that gives way to madness and fear at times. Davis is every bit as good, delivering two roles and be riveting in both. Holm is OK and it's not his fault that I couldn't get Bilbo out of my mind! Sands and Schneider don't have enough to do but are interesting faces.

Cronenberg is the perfect choice for director, but it is good that he holds back from the full on gore or body horror, call it what you will. He uses a measured camera to film the hallucinations rather than using swinging `crazy' angles to portray mental state - that is a lazy technique. Here Cronenberg (and Weller's blank face) calmly and methodically fall into despair and it is good to watch.

Overall, this is not a perfect film - it is slow and the narrative doesn't totally grip, however it manages to make a good fist out of filming a descent into a hallucinatory nightmare. Worth seeing it once, but I can't imagine that the word `enjoyable' would really ever apply to this film.
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Bill & Dave connect on the subject of meat
oktech22 July 2000
Mmmmm.... mugwump jizz

Themes: Substance addiction and how physically self-conscious it makes our protagonist feel, the creativity forced by imprisonment (a direct reference to real-life events between Burroughs, his wife, his subsequent incarceration and his heroin/acid issues), the sense of betrayal as more surprise than malice and of course the inevitable interface between Dave and Bill at the pelvic level.

The effects work is pre render-mation latex and sufficiently restrained to allow your imagination to back-fill the appropriate horror/fascination/titillation for the moment. Don't try to figure out which you =should= feel or to mentally sort it out, that'd rob you of the fun; it's the psychic and emotional disarray that makes it so compelling.

Peter Weller is suitably deadpan, allowing only a sparkle of the playful poet to shine through from time to time (the story about the Duke du Vantra's Espano-Suiza made me howl); he must have spent a few =fun= hours with Burroughs himself to get the role down.

If you liked Cronenburg's smarter stuff, such as Dead Ringers, you'll love this. If you've read Kerouac, Ginsberg or Burroughs in particular, I promise you'll love it. If you're not into exploratory literature, have issues with distasteful realities of poverty or have a personal affection for the quality works of Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger - you'll hate it.

It made a very strong impression on me; the day after I saw the opening night of Naked Lunch (long before the "internet"), I established and sysoped a BBS that was the primary alternative discussion forum for onliners in Edmonton, Alberta for several years. It's name? The Interzone.

The movie is fascinating, odd, reveals more on second viewing, and is faithful neither to Cronenburg nor Burroughs but an excellent mix of elements of both.

It has a great beat, easy to dance to... I give it an 89, Dick.

Either way, you won't look at a typewriter the same way ever again.
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jandaba10 November 2005
I find it difficult to comment this movie, honestly. Without revealing anything, that is. This applies to comments only,as the evaluation would mostobviously be 10/10. You see, having read in one of the other comments here, that the movie contained an implication on heroin addiction, I expected to find something similar to "Requiem to a Dream" - a movie that leaves one single message and a bouquet of associated feelings in a viewer, with the message being DRUGS ARE BAD, in big friendly letters. I was wrong.

I guess those who enjoy psychedelic music will understand what I want to say better - this movie has a high. Not literally of course, but it does leave you in a different world, with lots of ideas, without any definite beginning or end. It is very, very weird, in the most positive, awesome meaning of the word. Definitely not another conformist movie with a moralistic message behind it. Which is a good thing, really, because we don't get a lot of that nowadays, and 1991 isn't that far away....

The only thing about it is that you either love it or hate it. Nothing in between.

I find it quite impossible to add anything without revealing the plot. Therefore the only thing I'm going to say is: watch it! Not the best movie in the world, but most certainly the strangest one, at least from my point of view.
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George_W_Bush_Jr26 March 2007
Somebody told me to watch this because it would help me understand people taking drugs. I think I would have to be on drugs to understand it though, or maybe read the book. Maybe that was there point? Somebody also told me it was based on a book. Obviuously not the bibel. Well, anyway, I guess that explains why I didn't understand it.

Anyway, the movie is a comedy with a lot of scenes that remind me of my favoirite old time Walt Disney movies. There are typing talkwriters with flesh volcanoes for mouths and funny green aliens with slimy hoses coming out of their heads and European accents, and a lot of bugs. At least that's what I think.

I wanted to leave after about an hour, but couldn't find my way out of the livingroom. I guess next time I will have to put together an exit strategy before I watch another weird one like this.
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This meaningless film adaptation didn't do much for me.
Paul Andrews3 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Naked Lunch starts in New York City in 1953 where Bill Lee (Peter Weller) works as a bug exterminator, however he is having some difficulty as someone is taking his bug powder that he uses to kill them. Bill finds out that his wife Joan (Judy Davis) is taking it & injecting herself with it, then strangely Bill is contacted by a large bug type creature that informs Bill he has to kill his wife Joan because she is an enemy agent. Bill flees New York City & ends up in Morocco with his insect type writer that he writes his reports on, from this point on things get even weirder for Bill & us...

This Canadian, British & Japanese co-production was written & directed by David Cronenberg based on the controversial novel of the same name by William S. Burroughs, I am a fan of David Cronenberg & his work in general but I have to say that I think Naked Lunch is his least enjoyable film as far as I am concerned. Cronenberg's films are usually very visual & have deep meaning & are just great but Naked Lunch is a total mess that I personally didn't get & am not sure who it was meant to appeal to. Don't get me wrong films don't have to mean anything, they don't have to have deep life changing messages or be thought provoking but Naked Lunch is an almost unfathomable film. The basic plot as far as I can make out is that some bug exterminator starts getting high on his bug powder & then writes some bizarre book he titles Naked Lunch while having lots of bizarre hallucinations & starts to suffer from severe paranoia & concocts a strange world of his own in which he becomes some sort of spy or agent or something. For me a film has to be enjoyable & entertaining, if it isn't then what the hell is the point in watching it? Naked Lunch was neither enjoyable or entertaining to me so while some may love it & find all sorts of obscure meanings & parallels I thought it was just a meaningless mess with no direction or narrative & at almost two hours long it felt like it went on forever. While watching Naked Lunch I just kept thinking 'what the hell is going on' & once it had finished I was left thinking 'what the hell have I just spent two hours of my life watching', basically I was less than satisfied & left totally cold.

The film is stylish & visually impressive as one would expect from Cronenberg, I can't help but feel that it's no coincidence that the orifice's that the bugs speak out of look like a talking anus. There's nothing in the way of horror or gore really, there are a few bug like creatures & a couple of sex scenes but this is surprisingly tame considering the source material & the director.

The film has polished production values & looks nice enough, Naked Lunch was going to be shot in Tangier in Morocco but because of the war that broke out in Iraq it ended up being shot completely in Toronto in Ontario in Canada. Apparently Peter Weller turned down the lead role in Robocop 3 (1993) to star in this, Ian Holm, Julian Sands & Roy Scheider round off a good cast.

Naked Lunch is a film that I didn't like at all, there just didn't seem to be any point or message or reason for it's existence. As a big Cronenberg fan I can say this is my least favourite of his films that I have seen, over long & meaningless pretty much sums Naked Lunch up for me.
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The Criterion release it totally worth the $$$
chefpasta120 June 2005
A lot of people have already covered all the bases on why the movie is good. Now I'd like to express why the 37 dollar price tag is worth it.

Firstly, the finest and most movie enhancing directer commentary ever made. Cronenberg and Weller are entertaining and informative, and they left me wanting to watch the movie again, equipped with a deeper understanding of this classic film. You also get a whole second disk of special features including hundreds of photos from the movie and of Burroughs and friends,The making of the movie, and Naked lunch read by Burroughs himself in all its obscene glory. This DVD is a class act and truly it is how any great movie should be treated.

Criterion also uses the finest in today's technology to restore and transfer the original masters to DVD. They went as far as to consult the director for his approval. The sound is also perfected to crystal clarity.

In conclusion... You aren't getting ripped off for 37 dollars. In fact, you are getting such an amazing deal it's beyond words.
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jacknb23 April 1999
Though this film is artfully made, it is a disturbing view with little if any redeeming reasons to watch. Lives filled with confusion, blindness and self destruction, careening into further fear and loathing is perhaps useful or even entertaining when it has a purpose. The reason for this film escapes me. Darkness and perversion and directionless unhappiness in a person's life is not entertainment.
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exeverywhere23 March 2004
This is the worst movie I have ever seen in my life.

I hated it so much I wanted to trash the theatre and burn the print of the movie.

It was an excruciating experience from beginning to end.

The only reason I was compelled to watch this piece of trash in it's entirety is that I saw it in a cinema very far from my home, and I needed to catch my ride from the friend who was accompanying me. There was no where else to go in the area and, of course, no where in the lobby to sit and await my friend. I have never put myself in that predicament again.

Do not watch this movie if you love yourself.
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Inside the Internal Speaker
tedg23 October 2008
God, I like Cronenberg. I like his commitment. I like his designs. I like the fact that he deals straight and heavy.

I even like the feel of this movie while at the same time noting that it fails, at least it fails if you consider the value of the book.

The book is one of many that deals with the sliding overlap between one reality and another. I welcome any of these. And this is particularly attractive because of the animate typewriters-become-agent-controllers. These are much more visceral in the film. But the book made much of the scintillating overlap, the typed page that touched the earth from time to time that we would literally hold in our hands to assure us that there was a reality.

Cronenberg has none of this. As with all his films, there is one world, and he invests heavily in making it real. So we see ourselves, the typewriter that takes control, that provides the trance, the words, the enticement toward perversion of several types and its means. Cronenberg's slip into alternative universes is slippery only one way; he won't let us come home. I admire this, because I would rather see passion invested by an artist than compromise for something as trivial as effect. But here, I do miss the effect.

Judy Davis is her usual sublime self. The character (actually two, sortof) is a mess and is never anchored. But she herself is, outside the film. Her character's role is crucial to the thing, a sort of fulcrum around which the real and hallucinogenic revolve. Sex, meaning, holding onto the world. She accomplishes this not through the character, but the solid soul of the actress which shines through. Who else can do this? No one I know.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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Exterminate all rational thought.
Jessica Carvalho3 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
''Naked Lunch '' is one of the most twisted and strange movies I already watched in my life. I didn't get the story, and the movie don't make much sense to me, even knowing that the story is based on real people and events from the life of Burroughs,like a biography.

Even this movie being considered a Drama/Mystery genre, I think it should be a trash comedy, because some scenes are so pointless or without any sense, that they become funny! (The train of thought of this movie really does not have logic)

The only actor I know from this movie is Ian Holm, who plays ''Bilbo Baggins'' in '' Lord of The Rings''.

Ps:The gay/sexual theme and the drugs' theme are present all the time, by the way. (In a metaphor being the '' bug powder '')
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this 'naked lunch' is not at all edible. the movie is SPOILED. (spoilers everywhere!)
qu33nserenity9 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
i hated it! why? well, because it didn't at all entertain me. i didn't find anything amusing about this movie. why am i writing this if i hated it so much? i'm hoping to save some one a few bucks and buy something worth eating, like a burger.

i read the other comments here for this movie and found a lot of people who liked it more than hated it (the rating is a little above average). i was expecting a cool weird ride but all i got were bugs, BUGS, and more crappy bugs. it doesn't even deserve to be called "weird." the whole junkies shooting up BUG KILLING POWDER was just lame. i wouldn't buy the typewritter bug fight for anything. to those who are homophobic, turn the other way and RUN.

if it were possible i would have given this movie a zero, but i gave in and gave it a 1 for effort. the main druggie character did have hallucinations which semi explained the irrational display of pure crap. if you watch movie just for fun instead of watching movies to be a critic, this movie isn't at all fun. i don't know if it's a movie that you have to be a certain age and over to understand. so, thumbs way way down and there aren't even stars to consider for this movie.
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"I feel very insecure without a typewriter in the house..."
moonspinner5513 January 2011
Not for all tastes. Writer-director David Cronenberg's appropriately-loose adaptation of William S. Burroughs' cult 1959 novel--his script inspired more by Burroughs' life than by his literature--this tale of a drug-addicted exterminator lost among perverted American expatriates in Tangier is satisfyingly grotesque for about an hour. Counseled (or rather, egged on) by demonic talking roaches, the exterminator takes to writing a book after accidentally killing his wife; fleeing New York City, he meets by chance his dead spouse's lookalike and her husband, a quietly menacing homosexual with a typewriter fetish. Not particularly well-made, though Cronenberg certainly gained the trust of his actors and succeeds in not making them look foolish. Begins intriguingly but gradually loses steam, the shock factor having worn off. Judy Davis connects with the audience in an extraordinarily immediate way, but Peter Weller is too laconic to carry the rest of the weight. *1/2 from ****
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What the hell was that?!!
Idocamstuf6 June 2004
Wow, this was one wacky and screwed up movie. Maybe if I was a drug addict like the character in this film, I would have gotten something out if it, but unfortunately I am not a drug addict. The story was completely unappealing to me, as were the characters. Is there a point to all of this nonsense? Apparently, but I could not find it in the mess. I am sorry that I wasted my time on this weird and incoherent bunch of artsy fartsy gibborish. The 6.4 rating should have hinted that this film appeals highly to one type of viewer and completely bewilders another type. 3/10. Not recommend to the mainstream viewer, although others may love it. Your call.
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Cronenberg has proved this novel is unfilmable.....
MesaHead10 November 2006
Cronenberg has proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Burroughs' novel "Naked Lunch" is in fact unfilmable. I have to give him credit for trying though. Cronenberg gives the film a bare thread of a story while attempting to retain the bizarre imagery and irrationality of the book. He wisely avoids the repetitive 'sodomy followed by hanging' scenes that make up about half of the book. I am a fan of surreal and difficult narratives like "The Machinist", "Lost Highway" and "Brazil" but this one did not hook me. The emotional frame of reference and mood that makes those films so compelling is absent here. There are a few great lines in "Lunch" but most, if not all of those were lifted straight from the book. Cronenberg's creatures are well made. Other than that this film is a waste of time. Of course in some circles it's cool to like this movie (just like it was cool to like the book in college) whether you really get it or not.
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Naked Lunch: add a little reality to hallucinations, and stir
LivingDog9 November 2002
This movie is not for the shallow. If you think all you need in life is material possessions, then avoid this movie. It will either bore you to tears, or hurt your personality.

"Naked Lunch" is a ride into the mixture of 10% reality and 90% hallucination of a self-denial homosexual drug addict (Please note that I am not classifying this or any person or character like him - but merely listing all the qualities this character had). His struggle throughout his life - to admit to himself that he is homosexual is implied by his ability to admit the words in a hallucinogenic car ride but stonewalled inability to write the final sentence: "I am a homosexual" on his solo typwriter. Who is he afraid will see those words?... himself.

E.g. he is sitting in horrific fear of the words he sees on the typewriter, yet when his typewriter turns into a grotesque "bug" he converses with it freely. This fear of self-realization culminates in his grotesque hallucination of two of his man friends in an embrace. This deep-seated fear is not explained but merely stated* and so is not a judgement on the writer's or the director's part about homosexuality - rather about this one character's state of mind about himself. (I know the book is partly auto-biographical, but I am not talking about WB at all... rather of course about "William Lee.")

The 10% of reality is that he sees himself in some small way as a writer. I suppose if you spend all your free time (albeit only 10%) thinking about and doing writing, then you could say you're a writer... as well I am sure all the great authors did before they were "discovered" by the general public.

So his life is loosely tied together (this is the 10% reality) by his writing. The rest is all one gigantic hallucination. You don't know whether he is still in NYC (the car ride passes Morrocans and then New Yorkers where even a NYC subway entrance appears) or if he is in Morroco. It doesn't matter. You want to know what he sees, does, says, and writes next. Somehow he manages to stay alive through it all.

A "co-plot" (sub-plot seems like a poor word so I came up with "co-plot") is his relation with his wife. At least that's what you think the relation is in the film - only a minor development - until you see the last half and the final scene. It all ties you straight back to the beginning when he was in New York City... and perhaps why he went "travelled off" to Morocco.

= The Crew > stated* ...and stated brilliantly by WB and Mr. Cronenberg who directed this film. BTW, if I were the producer I would ***never*** have given this to Mr. Cronenberg. The reason is because the list of his credits are for such movies as: "The Fly," "eXistenZ," "Friday the 13th" (the TV show!), "Scanners," and "The Dead Zone." While I saw each of them I only thought "The Fly" was entertaining. None of these projects proved Mr. Cronenberg to be the genius that he showed in "Naked Lunch." I am in awe of his talent and salute him.

Another thing that I applauded Mr. Cronenberg for was his augmenting the film with spots of undistilled reality - as when "William Lee" cries out to his now dead "bug" and then drops it to the ground - in the next scene it is the typewriter. (very dada - very cool - haven't seen a "dada" in years! - thx for bringing me back to my childhood Mr. C! :) Scenes like this were used with the perfect amount of punctuality - to bring you back from the realm of riding out one of "William Lee's" hallucinations, and back into the real world which "Mr. Lee" has almost completely left behind.

Peter Weller as "William Lee" is so good in this film. I can't imagine a better choice. The "flat" portrayal seemed to be perfect for a heroine addict. From what I have seen of other such roles, the loss of desire, passion, ambition, drive, ...even reality(?) is par for the course of these poor souls. I love Mr. Weller's work - from "Buccaroo..." to "Robocop" and now "Naked Lunch" - he is clearly a thoughtful actor who puts all of his effort and thought into each role.

Kudos to Ian Holm, Julian Sands, and Roy Scheider for their great support in this fine film by David Cronenberg. These guys are great actors. One could see how thoroughly they threw themselves into their roles.

I loved this movie and will see it again and again when it shows on IFC. As Matthew Klickstein (another commentor) suggested, I will now try to read the book. (like seeing "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" it too requires seeing the British production *before* you actually read the books. I know because the book that wasn't put into production was impossible to follow... and I have a very active imagination! :)

OH! The meaning of "Naked Lunch" is the same as "Clockwork Orange" or "Bug Typewriter" - it's like a thing you dream up in your sleep - or drug addicts see in their hallucinations... God help them.

  • Zafoid

PS: One commentor said that: "If (you)... have a personal affection for the quality works of Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger - you'll hate it." I disagree. I love a movie based on it's own merits and impetus. Each can be enjoyed for their own qualities. E.g. People think that "The Cable Guy" was a bad Jim Carrey movie - not true. It was great because the guy was ***raised*** by TV! So his psychological afflictions stemed from his inability and lack of training on how to deal with real (3D) people... it wasn't a movie about "let's see how crazy Jim Carrey can act" at all.

As I said - if you aren't reflective person then this movie isn't for you - nor any other thing that may cause you to shuffle the dust from the old breadpan! Luv' ya! :)

BTW, "kaiman" (another commentor) got it ***EXACTLY*** right in very few words - nice job dude!

I guess understanding this movie is like understanding (seeing the humor in) "Pootie Tang" - you have to have "tasted it" in some small way to have appreciate it.

  • Z

PPS: I took 1 and a half hours to write this comment - that alone should tell you how much I enjoyed this film.
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Third Time Unlucky
The_Movie_Cat26 March 2000
Seeing Naked Lunch again takes me back to the autumn months of '92. Every Thursday some friends and I would grab a takeaway and a rental from the local video store, taking it in turns to choose the evenings' movie.

Normally I would consider myself a reasonable judge of what looks to be a good film, yet each time it was my turn to choose I would inexplicably pick a stinker. John Lithgow in a dress, murdering people in confused flashbacks with "Raising Cain"? What was I thinking? Keanu Reeves as an Englishman abroad for Coppolla's "Dracula"? Oh, how can I ever live down the shame? The star of Robocop as an agent for insectoid, alien lifeforms in the form of talking typewriters? How can I show my face again?

Naked Lunch was my third and final choice on these sojourns. Not necessarily because I was forbidden a further choice, but after three clunkers in a row I couldn't face the potential embarrassment of another mis-choice. Naked Lunch was the worst of the three, a cinematic rendition of a wordy, stream-of-consciousness novel that is heavily drug-indebted and completely fails to work on the screen. An exterminator who injects himself with bug deterrent suffers hallucinations – or are they, to be honest I didn't fully understand it all – and becomes a writer that indulges in espionage and homosexuality while getting high from the juices of alien lifeforms.

I realised when watching the movie a second time (or the first, as I've never made it to the end before) that I've seen an unhealthy amount of David Cronenberg films. This only struck me halfway through as Naked Lunch is not typical of the director and I didn't initially realise it was the same man. Set in New York, 1953, it's drab surroundings and sepia colourings are quite unlike anything the director has attempted before. Ironically, the elements of a Cronenberg movie that you consider detracting – the juvenile need for excessive gore, the shallow characterisation and frenetic pace – are sorely missed here, as Naked Lunch is a film without dramatic conflict. It just goes along at it's own meandering pace, with a monotone Weller non-reacting to pretentious events and telling anecdotes about talking sphinkters. (Yes, really).

I think it shows a lack of sophistication to label any film as "boring", but if I were to do so then this dull offering would be it. On a shallow note, it has already dated, it's now-primitive puppetry misplaced after less than ten years with CGI. I'm not a fan of computer-generated effects, but at least they could have done it for the mouths to make their lines in synch. Looking at it positively, although this film isn't successful, it did show a growing ambition in the director that lead to the extremely controversial "Crash". Naked Lunch, then. The maturest Cronenberg with an adult pacing and plentiful dialogue. Such a pity it's a perfect antidote for insomnia.
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