115 Min. | Drama – Fantasy | December 1991
IMDB Rating: 7.1
Director: David Cronenberg
Staring: Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm
Naked Lunch Review: “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 of Naked Lunch, 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. In Naked Lunch, 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.