Naked Lunch (1991) Poster


User Reviews

Add a Review
152 Reviews
Sort by:
The weirdest movie of all time??
GregForstner10 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen many a weird movie in my life but this one has to be the weirdest yet. I've also seen other movies by Cronenberg such as the "The Fly" or "Crash". They deal with controversial subject matter too, and confront the viewers with disturbing images but what distinguishes these flics from "Naked Lunch" is that they have a coherent narrative.

As much as I can appreciate the extraordinary effects (typewriters turning into cockroaches with a speaking pink anus), this lack of narrative makes "Naked Lunch" a decidedly tough watch that drags on for long 115 minutes. What can be gathered plot-wise: The unsuccessful writer Bill Lee works in NYC as an exterminator. His wife gets addicted to the bug powder he uses in his job and when he tries it too, his writer- libido awakens: typewriters transform into living organisms that guide the creative process. After Bill Lee accidentally kills his wife on a drug trip, he is made to flee to North Africa, to a place called the Interzone that defies reality and rationality…. Everything beyond that should not be included in the summary – it is as confusing and mind-boggling as it gets, supposedly based on the thoughts of a drug-addled brain.

Some may call "Naked Lunch" the apex of creativity as the movie seems to mirror the process of writing a novel. A few elements can be discerned: the drug abuse as a starting point to get some ideas, the ideas gain authenticity and the writer plunges into an alternative reality where typewriters dictate him what to do and he becomes entangled in intrigues and homoerotic passions….

The imagery is highly evocative of events and themes that coined the life of famous US author William S. Burroughs whose novel "Naked Lunch" inspired David Cronenberg to do this. Burroughs actually killed his wife in Mexico-City in a Wilhelm Tell-inspired act of madness and intoxication. Burroughs, who for a huge chunk of his lifetime was fleeing prosecution in several countries, in fact settled down in Tangier, Morocco for a couple of years to enjoy drugs and young men under the blazing African sun. He went on to live in Paris and London until he settled down in Kansas, while being most of his life busy getting on and off heroin.

Now if there is a biography worth making into a movie, it's his. There are numerous facets that are utterly intriguing about this artist such as his differing sexual preferences, his lifelong battle with the law, his massive drug addiction and his attempts to become clean, his friendships with other glaring Beat Generation authors such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg etc… Personally, I found this movie largely unapproachable and boring. If you have a working narrative, then you can include almost as many drug bouts as you want. But this is clearly not the case here….
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Nonsensical Garbage
krbodkin10 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Like most, or rather all, of Cronenberg's movies, this is utter tripe.

It's like he always writes scripts the second he regains conciseness after ingesting a second helping of peyote.

Of course this was originally written by Will Burroughs, but he's just as much of a twisted lunatic as Croney.

The film itself actually has quite a few big names in it, but that just means you get to watch actors you've seen in better movies act like they're not really sure what's going on, or why the hell they signed up for this mess.

If you do decide to watch this, be prepared for numerous conversations about homosexuality, and excessive drug use. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but as I've always said, I only support gay marriage if both chicks are hot...
1 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7.1 proves people are idiots cause they put it in the water
funeralfortheliving19 June 2016
Naked lunch is a visual and metaphoric masterpiece about creativity art and poetry and the depths of insanity that have given us the most astonishing and creative leaps towards human evolution. David Cronenberg unfortunately is a true auteur in a business ran like a production line assembly due to the audiences inability to enjoy anything that doesn't relate to what they have been brain washed into identifying with. William Burroughs actually stated that this film was the closest adaptation to anything ever attempted out of his writings and is the only time I have ever heard a writer say a film adaption didn't make them cringe at its gross misrepresentation. So why would the lemmings who pay 13 dollars to view Transformers 3 have a problem with this imaginative astounding work of art? It is simple, if you don't like films like this your an idiot there is no way around it. People are going to try and use excuses like free will and some things are not for everybody. But lets be real those are nice ways of saying you have chosen to be stupid. Do people in the Olympics say you can't compete because it's just not for everybody, no they understand you can't compete because your not talented or skilled enough to even stand on the side lines. But since we live in the land of the symbolically deformed and challenged it's OK to pretend being a sucker is great seeing as the kindergarten level propaganda employed is the only means of selling garbage and lies to pee brains just to keep our economy above total depression. How could a cgi crap fest with no story or character development like Dred get higher ratings than a master piece of the symbolic like Naked Lunch? Once again proving stupid people only like movies that spoon feed them all the answers in one sitting like 6th sense and Memento. Movies that have only one message and one goal knowing the morons who flood cinemas have to be slapped in the face for 1 1/2 hours to go oh I get it after the final reveal that leaves nothing to be imagined rams right down their butter lubricated throats. This is why I left film school just like in ancient rome Americans have been turned to brainless sheeple who think true art is to be demonized as the devil and replaced by product ruled by bottom line and would rather watch Happy Feet than be philosophically challenged. Congratulations you are all new age christians who burn art, feign experience, and take your queue's from a square that promises a safe distance from perception and knowing. True roman solders defending the status quo as being a mass of mindless idiots who cling to the lowest human functions of domestic drama and talking point arguments founded in identifying your self as a soulless sellout with no sense of individuality; instituted by a culture industry that promises minimum wage for your suspension of the constitutional rights given to you by people who valued truth and knowledge. So if you are incapable of relating to anything artistic or meaningful and like to get caught up in societal ignorance's and your idea of philosophizing is am I a good Ma Ma and Da Da, or think fundamental life choice is what should I wear to the prom or which homoerotic child's game is playing tonight on the idiot box, you might not even want watch this and you surly should not be leaving a review. You don't see dyslexic people leaving reviews to grammar text books or blind people reviewing books not available in braille do you? And you surly don't see moron's reviewing Einstein and Tesla claiming their works to be worthless drivel because they can't understand it so why in the world of cinema is it OK? You don't see me going to web sites that sell foreign books in other languages and saying this is just a bunch of gibberish because I don't know how to decipher it do you? Yet IMDb is flooded with reviews of piaxar-latent inhibitionists who think talking animals are visceral genius and farting cartoons are comedic bravado. Stick to your lame human dramas please and stay out of grown ups business. Have some kids or go play at the local playground you'll find subjects more in line with your intelligence level. Schopenhauer was right.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Thanks, I'll pass on lunch. I've lost my appetite.
mark.waltz26 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Perhaps too surrealistic for my provincial taste, this just left me cold and disgusted by its hideous use of revolting visuals to represent all sorts of symbolic repression. "Robo Cop" Peter Weller is a rather dour exterminator with writing ambitions whose wife finds herself addicted to his particular kind of bug spray. She takes him on a trip which results in his going on the run for her murder and facing psychological retribution for his latent and often poetic attempts to avoid his homosexuality. This brings him from gay old New York to exotic and perverted Morocco where the bug powder is overflowing and young boys seem available on every street corner...inside the Casbah.

Disgusting but often fascinating visually, this was mesmerizing for its avant garde performances especially Weller, Judy Davis (in multiple roles), Roy Schneider and Ian Holm. A very pretty Julian Sands is enticing as one of Weller's possible liaisons. But every time I get drawn into the underlying themes, I find myself turning away every time a huge bug appears, especially one which appears to talk through its anus. The most revolting moment happens when Weller comes across Sands ravishing the sweet young street boy inside a cage, seemingly devouring him like a preying mantis.

Whether an analogy of the dangers of drug use or perverted sexuality, this takes time to grab the average audience not expecting such an emotionally exhausting pseudo film noir. During my days working at a video store, I knew that David Cronenberg's movies would be a feast for the eyes yet psychologically challenging, and having avoided this one for years I prove myself to be right. It's ironic that living in New York I have no problem killing a bug even with my bare hand, but watching what goes on in this film just left me repulsed.

Watching this while studying the work of the remarkable Judy Davis, I noticed how much even at this point in her career that she resembles Judy Garland when she was immortalized playing her in a brilliant television movie. But this is closer to her black comedy of the same time, "Barton Fink", and well I could get through that film with no issue, it took all the patience in the world for me to make it through the end of this. I did get a kick out of one strangle looking creature which reminded me of "The Tingler".
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Wrong director, wrong actor, wrong book.
maxastree26 April 2016
In reaction to the overwhelmingly plastic culture of the 80s, 90s media started to regurgitate grainy images of "the Beats", fifties counter-cultural icons that could be easily reduced to a handful of key works, stylized photographs and design-heavy biographies dropping names like Ferlinghetti, Kerouac, Ginsgberg and of course Burroughs - a man who's inherited wealth, tragic past and anthropological interest in obscure cultures made him a hipster, low rent bon vivant and comedy artist all at once, lampooning Americana whilst somehow representing it at the same time.

The film "Naked Lunch" is something of a failure. It has some fascinating qualities, such as Ornette Colemans jazz score, and Judy Davis's somewhat crazed depiction of Burroughs wife in the film which creates a story opening that has a real sense of purpose, but then it all goes astray because, essentially, this is a film without a functioning plot.

Sure, the main character has a motivation: after the accidental shooting of his wife, he moves to North Africa, creating screeds of experimental writing under the influence of painkillers and alcohol as an escape, or perhaps a form of therapy. That's characterization though, whats the story actually about? Essentially, this movie is about typewriters, broken typewriters, hallucinatory moments, various confessions of homosexual guilt or reflection, and static, overly smug exchanges between Burroughs screen stand-in and his compatriots that bare witness to a story that goes nowhere.

Matters are made worse by location restrictions, so the crew shoot on sound stages covered with sand and prop work. Not only does the story evaporate, but the sense of place and time is oddly unconvincing also. I almost feel after seeing this movie that it could have served better as a stage play, with a bit of tweaking.

Did I mention Peter Weller is in this film? He must have hoped something as diametrically opposite to his role in Robocop would have helped his career, but his casting just contributes to the list of misplaced decisions that created this picture. After this film made back a fraction of its budget (people like Peter Suschitzky and Howard Shore hardly work for free) Weller disappeared from wide release films for many years.

The least flattering thing to say about Cronenbergs "Naked Lunch", a film that isn't really related to the wild satire and poetry of the famous book, is that it continued to reduce the image of Burroughs to an aesthetic, as if the death, addiction and suffering in his life could just be recycled as part of a conveniently "hip" pop culture style.

Cronenberg and Burroughs themselves are people of considerable talent, for sure, but not here.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Review This says...Yea Right!
LeonLouisRicci28 October 2015
This is beyond a Challenge. It is an Impossibility, Yet it Can be Done. Attempting, and Ultimately Succeeding, to Review a Film that was made from an Unfilmable Book. The Book, it might even be said was a Book that was Unwriteable, But yet it WAS Written.

The Paradoxes and Ironies abound. They Bounce around the Works of William S. Burroughs and David Cronenberg with a Symbiosis that is Rare, but it does Occur. This could be Called "A Happening".

The Melding of these Twisted Minds could Never Result in anything Approaching Linear. It's as Futile as returning a Pretzel to its Doughy Larval State. But yet, Here it is.

Cronenberg's Movie has a Beginning, a Middle, and an End. So do the Books of Burroughs. Trying to make Sense of the Surreal, both the Writer and the Director never Expect, although Require, the Reader and the Viewer to do so.

It's the Attempt, the Trying that is the Thing. Involvement, Participation, Thinking. Just the Process is the least an Artist can Expect from the Patrons.

Peter Weller Embodies Burroughs in Mind and Stature, and He is the surprisingly Witty and Confused "Grounding" for the Audience to Glaum ahold of as this Trip to the "Interzone" Gets Underway. Good Luck with that, because, You See, Mr. Lee (Burroughs) is too High most of the Time to be anywhere Near the Ground.

The Plot doesn't Thicken, as Things Unfold, It's more like the Plot Solidifies into a Madness of the Mind. It's that Kind of Movie Cronenberg Made and that Kind of Book that Burroughs Wrote.

Get Involved with this Film Only if You have the willingness to Expand Your Consciousness and Entertain the Creative Minds of the Dangerous. The Thoughts and Images of the Unthinkable. It will be a Challenge. Are You Up For it? If Not, it's Better to Stay Down there Where You Are.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
beyond strange
SnoopyStyle6 September 2015
It's 1953 NYC. Bill Lee (Peter Weller) is a former drug addict who has gone straight as an exterminator. He discovers his wife Joan (Judy Davis) is stealing his insecticide to get high. Bill is arrested by narcotic cops. They show him a talking bug who tells him that his wife is an agent of the Interzone Incorporated and she's not even human. He kills the bug and escape. He's directed to Dr. Benway (Roy Scheider) to get off the bug powder. He accidentally shoots Joan and kills her but she doesn't bleed. He falls further and further into a drug-induced surreal world. He imagines going to Interzone to start writing reports.

This is a movie beyond strange. This is not a movie for following the plot. This is a series of disturbing visuals to feel. It is weirdness without compromise. Peter Weller's stone-faced acting probably is the most daring choice. A drug movie usually has the protagonist going completely manic. I can definitely understand critics who find this movie unwatchable. It is one of the most unique visions ever.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Bizarre Epic
Michael Radny3 August 2015
Naked Lunch is not your typical movie. In fact most of it is like a messed up hallucinogenic acid trip. However, what it offers is a look into the mind of crazy weird. Centerpede humans and beetle type writers, nothing is like this film. It's storyline is interestingly compelling, whilst simultaneously being disgustingly absurd. A really terrifying look into drugs and insect killing and addictive chemicals.

The Naked Lunch is not a film to watch to love. The Naked Lunch is a film about love that you watch to experience. Much like David Lynch's Eraserhead, this more direct storytelling but equally strange film will ensure to be meaningful and there are scenes you will never forget.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Reel Look: Naked Lunch
Joseph Pezzuto1 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"Exterminate all rational thought. That is the conclusion I have come to." A product of the Beat Poetry generation, writer and drug addict William S. Burroughs' 1959 Naked Lunch novel's title takes it's name as described best by the author: "a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork". The book was notably banned in many places and deemed unfilmable until Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg (Videodrome, The Fly) took the project into his own hands in 1991, adapting from Burroughs' other works as well to tell the story of this surreally strange science-fiction drama. Combining Howard Shore, known for his thunderous choir and full orchestra scores and Ornette Coleman's dizzy saxophone of free jazz together for the film's astounding score was certainly an audacious choice, as the notes sporadically swell and sway, seeming to add a hazy atmosphere to the drug-fueled ambiance of the picture. Peter Suschitzky's queasy green-and-gray-tinged cinematography only adds to the collision of varying sensibilities of a sickly uneasiness as well throughout. Did Cronenberg succeed at filming the unfilmable? Let's take a look.

Peter Weller plays Bill Lee (a pseudonym of Burroughs and the name under which he published his first autobiographical novel Junky), a man of whom wants to write but exterminates insects to pay the bills. Bill sometimes hangs out with his nebbish writer friends, (of which Burroughs' modeled after fellow beat poet friends Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg) Hank (Nicholas Campbell) and Martin (Michael Zelniker), of whom are both sleeping with Joan under Lee's very nose. Lee's wife, Joan, (Judy Davis), becomes addicted to Bill's bug powder dust, as she describes a shoot-up to feel like a "literary high"; a reference to Franz Kafka's 1915 short story 'The Metamorphosis'. He soon joins her in a world of unorthodox hallucinogens, involving meeting the kindly but sinister Dr. Benway (Roy Scheider), walking away with his first dose of the black meat he gives to Bill: a narcotic made from the flesh of the giant aquatic Brazilian centipede. When a party trick game known between Bill and Joan called the William Tell routine involving a liquor glass and a gun go awry, accidentally killing Joan, Bill flees to the Tangiers-like Interzone (Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch in the city Tangiers). Here in this Mediterranean location, he encounters talking insectoid typewriters, double agents, offbeat aesthetes, Mugwumps spouting and oozing from phallic appendages and plots within plots.

Cronenberg's collaboration with the banned work of Burroughs between the realms of fiction and non-fiction allows the film itself to concern that nether region between the real and unreal as well, where the inspired and imaginative impetus for the creative process are not driven by drug-fueled hallucinations but are the product of it instead. With a fragmented touch of film noir realism, random routines and creepy-crawlies galore,'Naked Lunch' is a bizarre plunge into a narcotic delusion echoing that of a bitter cry from the bellows of the Earth. When combining both worlds regarding the exterminated species of the entomologic kingdom along with a few hits of insect powder, the thin line of what is tangible fades into a twisted oblivion, giving us a picture not for everyone but remains a good hit that still manages to shock and stun even today thanks to it's daring director, even with all of the bugs and the drugs.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the best movies
Xander Khudanich6 April 2015
I think Naked Lunch is one of the best movies I have ever seen (I've seen a lot of them). The film is based on the book "Naked Lunch" by William S. Burroughs. For yet with books by this author I do not know, but I think in the future, be sure to read his work. Filming a movie based on the book of the eccentric writer, Canadian director David Cronenberg, prone in his work to the constant shocking, decided to mix with original work of reference to the rest of creation of the author, as well as elements of the biography

William Burroughs. Get in the end surreal mixture is able to confuse anyone.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Extremely unique, a depressing portrait of a lonely author
Christopher Reid20 January 2015
This is one of the most unique (and bizarre) movies I've ever seen. I didn't really like it that much, mainly because it seemed pointless. The mood and style were interesting but where was it going? What was the big idea, the force driving us through the film? Having now read up a little on it, I like it a bit more. William S. Burroughs seems to be an interesting but pretty sad figure. That he accidentally shot his wife is baffling and tragic. It's hard to believe or to feel sorry for him. But it happened and can't be changed. Apparently this movie is basically about him. It's kind of moving that he became an author because of the intensity of what happened. Hopefully it helped him heal or move on.

The whole movie is very yellowy/orange/brown in colour. And there are lots of close-ups. It's very claustrophobic - we can't escape this world. It's dreary. It generally seems hot, characters are often sweating. Every scene predictably has Bill (Peter Weller who played Robocop and dropped out of Robocop 3 to do this) with his pale, expressionless face casually conversing with either a giant talking bug of some sort or otherwise some man in a suit. The movie is so calm all the way through. It only intensifies occasionally in grossness or eroticism. Cronenberg seems to have a thing about drawing parallels between sex, disgust, pain, fear, I don't know, a bunch of things. There's always morphing and moaning, blood and guts. Pleasure and pain get mixed up. Those primitive urges, I guess they all come from the same place.

One reason I didn't connect too much with Naked Lunch is the drug aspect. I don't plan to ever do drugs. I don't get it. It's so easy to avoid them completely (and the same for smoking and even alcohol). Why waste money destroying yourself? Hence I don't empathise with those kinds of habits. Especially since people seem to do it out of boredom. Their life is so plain or empty that they turn to drugs. Why not read great books or watch great movies or learn about maths and science? There are so many deep truths and unsolved problems that could blow your mind. There are so many safe, real, tangible things to explore and enrich your life with. How do drugs have any appeal at all?

Cronenberg's movies always seem very focused and patient and sincere. You might not get what's happening but you sense that thought has gone into it. You're *meant* to have "that" reaction, whatever "that" might be.

This movie is frustrating if you're expecting the wrong thing from it. It really doesn't seem to go anywhere. I've never been great at following dialogue. There are probably some abstract gems here or there that I missed. But if you feel like something really weird but slow and calm, Naked Lunch is one-of-a-kind. I'm assuming there's a lot more to it than I understood. For now, I'm glad I experienced it, I was frustrated that I didn't "get" it at the time but for some reason it's growing on me as I remember it.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Strange trip...
RevRonster24 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I never saw "Naked Lunch" when it came out. It was only recently that I was reminded of its existence after watching another David Cronenberg movie and I decided to finally sit down and give it a chance.

I really liked Peter Weller's performance in it and I really enjoyed the animatronics that brought the aliens and bugs to life. I know hating CGI is all the rage now but seeing really solid practical effects from a time past is still really cool and neat to take in. I also really enjoyed the strange, trippy story the film provides as David Cronenberg not only made a loose adaptation of the novel this is based on but also inserted segments of the author's real life into the plot as well. In all honesty, the only thing I didn't care for was the use of a negative term for describing homosexuality in the film—but this was made during a time where that awful word was still used, so this complaint is pretty moot.

The only real problem I have with "Naked Lunch" is the fact that it might be too weird for its own good. While I dig a trippy film here and there, this movie never lets up on the trip and even the ending suggests that that fantastic ride for the character of Bill Lee is far from over. Usually, strange films end with a way that sums everything up as if to say, "Look, there's a reason for the oddities." This film doesn't really have that and just has it ending with a nod and a wink that suggests that ride is far from over. That's all well and good and I dug that but it did make for a movie that doesn't offer up repeat or future viewings. In the end, it felt like, "Well, I experienced it, what's next?"

Greetings, friend! The name is Rev. Ron and if you feel like reading more of my rants, ramblings, bad jokes, geek references,and other movie reviews (like a more in-depth look at "Naked Lunch" and other, less trippy films) you can visit my blog at If you don't want to do that because of my average experience with this film and that makes you dislike me immensely, you don't need to visit.
0 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Cronenberg Does Burroughs
gavin694223 September 2014
After developing an addiction to the substance he uses to kill bugs, an exterminator (Peter Weller) accidentally murders his wife and becomes involved in a secret government plot being orchestrated by giant bugs in a port town in North Africa.

In order to recreate the beat movement, Cronenberg turned to jazz, as he saw beat writing as jazz with the typewriter as instrument. Howard Shore, Cronenberg's regular composer, did a fine job recruiting the necessary talent. (Weller, interestingly, has a background in jazz and even received a master's degree.) Cronenberg has used scenes from "Exterminator", "Junky" and others, as well as "Naked Lunch". So this film could have been titled just about anything, as it is not a straight transfer of the book it borrows its name from. He also created the idea of using bug powder as a drug; Burroughs wrote on drugs and exterminating, but had never himself combined the two. Indeed, the whole bug theme was greatly expanded by Cronenberg, leading to the creatures that are very much something up Cronenberg's traditional theme of the "new flesh".

Roy Scheider came on board because he asked to be, having been a big fan of Burroughs. This is fortunate for everyone, as he is among the best actors in the business and makes an excellent Benway. Who else was up for the role is unknown.

Prior to the shooting, Peter Weller met with William Burroughs, of whom he was a big fan. Burroughs apparently had slight objections to the casting because of Weller's looks, but Weller felt he was playing William Lee, not Burroughs, so there was no need to directly imitate the voice or looks of the author. This was a wise choice on Weller's part.

The film presents women in an interesting way. Cronenberg relies on Burroughs' view of women as an alien species. Without ever getting misogynist or anti-women, the story does tend to create a sense of "the other" regarding women. What this says about Burroughs is unclear -- of course, he had a complicated sexuality, but was it something more? What is needed is more Julian Sands.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Cronenbugging out...
poe4262 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
There was a time when the only filmmaker making films who seemed like a likely candidate to bring Philip K. Dick's A SCANNER DARKLY to the Big Screen was David Cronenberg. Maybe not... What NAKED LUNCH has to say about WRITING is interesting; what it has to say otherwise is open to interpretation. "Guilt is the key," we're told at one point. Certainly, guilt played a big part in Burroughs's life as a writer- but, beyond that...? "Exterminate all rational thought," Peter Weller as Bill Lee says: "I gave up writing when I was ten. Too dangerous. I've found my profession. I'm an exterminator." Huffing the poisons he sprays to exterminate bugs causes him to hallucinate (Or DOES it...?). He sees a large bug, which literally talks out of its ass; it tells him that his wife is from Interzone, Incorporated and that she must be killed. He meets a Mugwump, a creature that quite literally OOZES sex, who gives him a ticket to Interzone and suggests that he procure a typewriter- a Clark Nova ("It has mythic resonance.")- and begin writing. He visits Dr. Benway (Roy Scheider), who mixes up a "cure" for Lee's wife. Says Benway: "It's like an agent- an agent who's come to believe his own cover story, but who's in there, hiding in a larval state, just waiting for the proper moment to hatch out." Lee then kills his wife (played by Judy Davis) while playing "William Tell" (a game wherein you shoot an apple off of someone's head). He then flees into the Interzone. There, his typewriter metamorphosizes into a talking bugwriter and he wonders (of homosexuals): "Could I be one of those sub-human things...?" He is, of course, and comes to the conclusion that "America is not a young land. It is old... and dirty and evil." Says the bugwriter: "... a writer lives the sad truth like anyone else. The only difference is- he files a report on it." Cronenberg has filed his report, and NAKED LUNCH is it. Unfortunately, Cronenberg, like David Lynch, began to take himself so seriously that he started doing things just for the sake of being weird. And, like Lynch, he eventually began to parody himself.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Harriet Deltubbo19 August 2014
Without question this is one of the grimmest films ever. Here's a story about a place most people might not be able to conceive: where things are dying, where people survive off liquor and candy, where those who are supposed to love us shove knives into our backs. It will bring you to tears and make you laugh. All characters are unhappy souls, surviving in a grim world. It's an amazing work and everything I had hoped for. From an artistic standpoint, there were some plot elements and character developments I didn't think were totally needed. They do however drive the story, which seemed to be their purpose, so I can accept them.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Early morning glaze
Liam Blackburn31 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I recommend watching this in the early morning hours when your mind is glazed with the sheen of your early morning donuts. The surreal scenes work with the jazz music. It's about communication. The typewriters keep turning into fleshy organisms that talk themselves. They look like insects and the one hybrid typewriter is like a huge insectoid alien. The same one that gives him one mission thats sitting in the bar. Plus he gets his first mission which is to kill his wife. So he kills his wife, but I totally forgot that that was his mission. It is really cool how the movie maker accomplished this because I didn't clue into that he carried out his mission until later. He didn't even know it at the time and then it gets revealed to him by another insect machine that he was programmed to not even know he was carrying out a mission. The most effective agent is a unconscious agent. The most effective agent is an unconscious agent. Think about that. Then there's the story of the guy who teaches his rear how to talk. It just becomes this unconscious agent without a brain. Just a talking machine like the typewriter who keeps giving him the missions. The only difference between an operative and non- operative is they write reports. Then they mention the new world order near the end. It's like the whole New york media is in internal operation focused on these grotesque cockroach type machines that keep spewing intoxicating stories like drugs for the mind.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
It's Chronic "Movie-Time" Constipation
Dalbert Pringle4 June 2014
Naked Lunch is definitely the kind of flick that'll get most "thinking" people either burping, or farting, or, most likely, doing both at the same time, long before the picture is even over the rainbow. I'm not kidding.

Naked Lunch is gastronomical! It's when you stop to consider that one of the main characters in Naked Lunch is in actuality a "talking" sphincter (it's true), that this will excuse any foul response to this poor-excuse-of-a-movie, without any apologies required.

I have to say that it was actually really comical at times when this babbling butt-hole and Bill (Peter Weller) were engaged in one of their many screwy conversations, or whatever. I mean, what, in the hell, are you supposed to say to a sphincter? Go ahead! Try talking to your own sometime and see what kind of a response you inevitably get from it.

It did kind of strike me ironically that, here in Naked Lunch, it just happened to be this extremely vocal arsehole who was calling all the shots with Bill, ordering him around, and telling him to do this and that. Yeah, irony-of-ironies, Bill, a grown man, is being bossed and bullied around by, of all things, Sir Admiral Anus . It's, naturally, all fun and games at first, but, typically, as novelties often go, this gabbing, little Corn-hole gets to be a total pain-in the-butt (literally) after a short while.

It took (of all the lopsided-minds in this world) the most whacked-out one of them all (director, David Cronenberg) to bring Naked Lunch to the big screen. Any idiot with half a brain in his head could have told this nut (which I'm sure they did) that the William Burroughs' novel of the same name was impossible to film. But, Cronenberg, believing himself to be creating the work of a genius from the work of another genius forged ahead like a real, little trooper and produced an utterly awful film. Bravo, Cronenberg! You can have your Naked Lunch, and eat it, too.

I won't even try to outline the ludicrous plot of Naked Lunch, 'cause, let's face it, there ain't one. In that way it's exactly on par with the Burroughs' novel.

Right from the start Naked Lunch is absolutely nonsensical to the nth degree. The story runs off in so many different tangents, seemingly all at once, that it will make your poor, little head spin-spin-spin. I'd confidently say that you'd probably have more luck getting a clear story just talking to your own sphincter, rather than try to piece together Naked Lunch's rectal-mess.

So, as I suggest, leave all your worldly troubles behind you and come on down to the Breakfast Club where they're serving a scrumptious Naked Lunch for your Last Supper.
0 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Cronenberg and Burroughs: Two Great Weirdos Together At Last
Lachlan J McDougall15 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Cronenberg's adaptation of William S. Burroughs' seminal work of the beat generation Naked Lunch is as wild, wacky, and outrageous as one might expect it to be. Fuelled by drugs, sex, and grotesque special effects the film is a visual feast of decadence and depravity.

The story revolves around Burroughs' own fictional self named Bill Lee (whose lines are mumbled exceptionally by Peter Weller) who, after accidentally killing his wife (Judy Davis) in a party trick gone wrong (a real event if you feel like reading up on the life of the immensely interesting writer) flees to the strange land of 'Interzone'. Drugs and intrigue abound in this new world as Lee finds himself embroiled in a network of spy agents and international politics, but this narrative is about as irrelevant as it is hard to follow. No, the real story here is the meta-narrative in which Bill Lee uses his weird drug fuelled fantasies of Interzone to write his novel Naked Lunch.

The audience is constantly flipped from the mind of Lee, where everything is exactly the terrifying reality that his drug addled brain has constructed around him, to the more normal worlds of his writer friends, Hank (Nicholas Campbell) and Martin (Michael Zelniker) – renamed inserts of beat writers Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac – who try to keep Lee under control while he writes his novel.

These perspective shifts are handled with great skill as Cronenberg slides in and out of the various worlds with such ease so that it almost becomes difficult for even the viewer to prise them apart. The madness, despair, and isolation depicted in this film is contagious flowing through the screen and into the minds of the audience.

I suppose for some this might be seen as the movie's failing. It is dry, dark, and sparse with little understandable motivation and multiple scenes of abject horror, but for fans of the original novel and the whole idea of the beat generation I think that Naked Lunch will be an instant hit. It is also, in my opinion, one of Cronenberg's least pretentious films and one which actually showcases his skill as a filmmaker rather than simply showing his penchant for showcasing the weird.

The direction (coupled with the wonderfully evocative free-jazz soundtrack) work very hard to capture the unease and loneliness of our tragic protagonist and, I've got to say, that it actually works. Even the obnoxiously overt special effects don't fall to level of mere shock value (as they did in, say, Videodrome (1983)), but rather aid the film in creating a visceral sense of absolute disgust.

Overall I must say that I was incredibly pleased with Naked Lunch, and as a big fan of the book I wasn't disappointed. It is by no means a faithful translation of the text, because that would be impossible, but nevertheless it works as a companion piece and an equal to that wonderful novel. It is a film that I would highly recommend to anyone who thinks that they might have the stomach and the inclination to submit themselves to the weird horrors of both Burroughs and Cronenberg at the same time.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
This is a film that jolted me in my sleep and made me awake, days after I saw this.
braddugg5 May 2014
This is a film that jolted me in my sleep and made me awake, days after I saw this. Some scenes are terribly brilliant in this surreal drama.

Thanks to Criterion, because of which I got to know of this film, and picked it up from their collection. David Cronenberg is one of the outrageous directors existing today. He does not seem to compromise with his vision and tries to be so true to the material that it frightens the viewers very much. I wonder if I can ever see this on a big screen, in theater somewhere. Will they dare to put it up, will there be audience in the first place? I really doubt. yet, this is one of the finest surreal dramas that was made in 1990's.

A week after I watched it, I just woke up as I got a scene from this film in a dream. Damn, even today (which is a month after I watched it) as I type the review, the hairs strands are standing on forearms. Creepy it is and totally insane too. I wonder how such a subject was chosen to be presented.

This is an adaptation of the novel by the same name, written by William S. Burroughs. I wonder whether those who have read it imaging the details presented in the book, also have been through nightmares as I did watching this film.

Nevertheless, this is a very important aspect of art and film making and indeed it is needed. I appreciate the courage of the director and more so the producers. Obviously, this is not a film for everyone, even for the generally weird people, but it's for those who have a liking for aesthetics of weird, nightmarish, disgusting things.

I cannot reveal characters or the plot points coz that would make any reader of this review miss the fun, given that he chooses to see the film. It's definitely worth a one time watch and that perhaps is enough for a lifetime as it would not be easy to erase from memory either. It has tremendous impact undoubtedly.

A 4/5 for one of the terrific and even terrible surreal movies
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Cronenberg does Burroughs, and does it well
Jafar Iqbal28 November 2013
An exterminator becomes addicted to the substance that he uses to kill bugs, and accidentally ends up murdering his own wife. This leads to him becoming involved in a secret government plot in a port town in North Africa, seemingly orchestrated by giant bugs.

William S. Burroughs is one of those three influential writers known collectively as the Beat Generation (the other two being Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac), and this film – and the book its adapted from – is one of the reasons why. Partly autobiographical, partly the absurdity of Burroughs imagination, 'Naked Lunch' is an excellent film.

As you watch the film, it's difficult not to be taken aback by its sheer zaniness and surreal nature; however, it's fascinating to find out that, under those layers of fantasy, Burroughs is recounting stories from his own life. Drug addiction; the accidental murder of his wife; the need to escape from the glare of city life – these were all things that Burroughs endured himself and subsequently penned down. But in pure Burroughs fashion, the author adds some mutant bugs and a crazy plot to spice it up.

And then you add Cronenberg to the equation, who himself is famed for his outrageous and sometimes ridiculous films. Cronenberg manages to bring Burroughs' vision to life in a very strong way, keeping the film moving at a frenetic pace and never really letting the viewer feel like they finally have a grasp of what is going on. At each turn, the film takes a new, unexpected twist, and we're all the better for it.

But the best thing about the film is Paul Weller. Between typewriter-shaped cockroaches and insane hallucinogenic experiences, Weller somehow instils a level of gravitas. Maybe it's his everyman good looks, or his ability to seemingly move through every scene with a quiet presence, but Weller (as lead character Bill) makes you believe in the world. Through everything that he does, you stay on his side, and that gives this strange film it's emotional core.

This is not Cronenberg's best film, I think, but 'Naked Lunch' definitely ranks up there as one of the better ones. The absurdity of it all had the potential to be off-putting; but bring together the intimacy of Burroughs' writing, the imaginative Cronenberg direction, and Weller's grounded performance, and you have a brilliantly made movie. Watch it.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Surreal and weird movie that didn't amaze me or anything but it's still a good film
KineticSeoul4 August 2013
Now this can be a difficult film to sit through for some and may even come off a bit slow. It's thought provoking and you really need to focus on the madness of this film in order to figure out what is going on when it comes to the story. I couldn't figure out entirely what was going on after watching it the first time and I was heavily paying attention. Now some people compare this to "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" which is a more popular film that revolves around the side effects of drugs. And basically is the more popular film between the two since it has Johnny Depp, it's more easy to follow despite the craziness and it's just more of a entertaining film overall. But I am gonna have to appreciate "Naked Lunch" and the ballsy directions David Cronenberg went with this flick. It's a very bizarre and weird movie all the way through, even when it comes to the characters and not just the premise and background of the story. The difficult part might be to differentiate what is hallucination and just fantasy and what is real. Even if some parts may appear like hallucinations it can be really happening just not how the protagonist views it as. The weirdness may start off overwhelming and you don't really get exactly what is going on, but as it progressed I got used to it fairly early on. Even if it feels like it's all over the place a lot of times. Since it has a lot of plots and layers going on at once. This isn't a movie I would watch again, but it's a weird trip that I can see why some people might appreciate and enjoy and others wouldn't. I personally think I liked it but just not immensely or anything like that. And also found it slow despite the strange imagery that actually really does connect with the story. But a movie driven by expression system, this one does quite a good job while blending in with the madness. It actually made me want to read the book this movie is based on, since I heard the book is even stranger. And since this is movie is based on a personal novel by William Burroughs made it more interesting as well.

1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Strong start in keeping with other Cronenberg films, but then it becomes (dare I say it?) too accessible and predictable
amazing_sincodek31 May 2013
I generally love Cronenberg's films. They (generally) have a unique, dark, hallucinogenic sensibility that is often compared to David Lynch, but characteristically differ from David Lynch's films in that they often get progressively weirder as they go, constructing their own logic and drawing the viewer further and further from what (s)he expects to see in cinema.

Naked Lunch is the only exception I've seen so far. Though the first 30 minutes or so suggest something familiar from his previous films, the rest of the film is too obvious in its intentions (namely, a figurative discussion of the writing process and of Burroughs himself), with no surprises or additional weird stuff being introduced. All the weird stuff gets introduced in the first 30 minutes, and then the "rabbit hole" feeling disappears.

There's nothing wrong with that, I guess, if you are a fan of Burroughs, or, alternatively, if you AREN'T a fan of Cronenberg. That is, this movie, while certainly pretty disgusting and weird relative to mainstream films, is actually pretty generic in its artistic sensibilities. It uses metaphors which are easy to interpret and nests social commentary in its dialogue in a way that is easy to recognize.

I wanted a movie that would challenge me, confuse me, and unsettle me more and more as it progressed. Instead, I started yawning and fast-forwarding as the same metaphors were recycled over and over. Again, this is fine from the standpoint of traditional art and narrative construction, but I expect Cronenberg's films to go beyond what I am able to interpret. No such luck here.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
You'll never look at typewriters the same way again.
Scott LeBrun6 March 2013
"Naked Lunch", by its very nature, is likely to strongly divide audiences. It's the logical enough merging of two distinctive visions, that of the very influential "beat" author William S. Burroughs and the highly individualistic filmmaker David Cronenberg. Right from the start you know it won't adhere to anything resembling traditional narrative. Instead, it goes straight for the bizarre, the mind blowing, the metaphorical, and the shocking. It exists in a true dream world where anything is possible. Instead of being a truly faithful adaptation of a novel that is described as many as being "unfilmable" anyway, it weaves in elements from Burroughs's own life with memorable results.

It takes place in a Northern Africa community known as the Interzone, where an exterminator and aspiring writer named William Lee (Peter Weller) has fled following his accidental shooting of his wife Joan (Judy Davis). The story involves such details as drug addiction - Bill and Joan are hooked on the very substance that he uses to kill insects - and a secret plot being hatched by talking bugs that grow progressively larger. Bills' encounters with the assorted oddball human characters are no less surreal.

Burroughs and Cronenberg fans should be delighted with this films' striking depictions of unreality. The creature effects, courtesy of Chris Walas and company (Walas and Cronenberg had previously collaborated on "The Fly") are incredible; the grotesqueries on display - for one thing, the bugs talk out of their sphincters - are the kind of thing that Cronenberg has always excelled at creating.

The jazzy score by Ornette Coleman and Howard Shore is intoxicating, as are the production design by Carol Spier and the cinematography by Peter Suschitzky. The cast all deliver fearless and riveting performances; the heavy hitters include Ian Holm, Julian Sands, and Roy Scheider, and Davis pulls double duty by playing the companion of Holms' character as well. They all play this so well that they just completely pull you in. Weller offers a deliciously deadpan performance as the philosophical Bill.

As far as films that delve into the writing process go, "Naked Lunch" may be one of the most out there in existence, but it does provide a certain amount of rewards for adventuresome film lovers.

Eight out of 10.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"Exterminate all rational thought."
Al_The_Strange30 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
On the first viewing, I watched it all the way through, and for the first time ever I determined that this must be the weirdest film ever made. That sentiment has now been completely supplanted by my exploration of David Lynch films, with Eraserhead and Inland Empire topping my list of weirdest movies ever seen. Much like a Lynch film, however, Naked Lunch eschews the notion of developing a plot and focuses more on crafting a strange, surreal, nightmarish experience. In this film, you can expect to dive into a world of walking talking bugs, mutating typewriters, and shady characters who are never what they seem. There are a few shocking instances of strange imagery with strong sexual subtexts, and scenes of cold, wicked, disturbing murder.

Based partly on William S. Burroughs's novel Naked Lunch and partly off of the author's biography, the Naked Lunch film succeeds at taking an "unfilmable" subject and bringing it to the big screen. It does so by establishing a solid baseline narrative, with the actual writing of the titular book as the main drive of the story. As such, the film tacks on elements of the original book around that structure, and touches upon some stark themes regarding substance abuse and the breakdown of reality. It's pretty odd to slap together giant bugs and drugs with the writing process, but in its own twisted way the film makes perfect sense: it's basically the story of a writer (possibly William Burroughs himself) who abuses drugs to escape grief, but finds the purest escapism in his writing and winds up regressing further and further away from reality.

The film is competently-made, with quality photography and editing. Acting can be rather dry, but Peter Weller is impeccable as the protagonist. Judy Davis, Ian Holm, and Roy Sheider add some quality talent to mix. Writing is pretty decent, especially in the way it builds the story from the given elements without using too much exposition, forcing the audience to interpret things for themselves. This production has some wickedly awesome make-up effects; most other sets, props, and costumes are decent. The music score is comprised of some really cool jazz.

David Cronenberg's film is remarkable in many respects, especially in the way it takes a piece of literature without tangible form and shapes it into a something cinematically presentable. However, it still stands as one of the most bizarre films I have seen, and chances are that you'd have to be a connoisseur of such cinema to truly enjoy this type of insanity (and you may need a strong stomach for certain scenes). I'd say that if you enjoyed films like Eraserhead or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, then you may enjoy Naked Lunch as well. For casual audiences, I can only recommend a rental, if at all interested.

4/5 (Entertainment: Pretty Good | Story: Uhhhh… | Film: Good)
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews