Naked Lunch (Criterion Collection)

Directed By: David Cronenberg Starring: Peter Weller Judy Davis

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Product Overview

Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs' hallucinatory, "unfilmable" novel is finally realized on-screen by director David Cronenberg. Part-time exterminator and full-time drug addict Bill Lee (Peter Weller) plunges into the nightmarish netherworld of the Interzone, pursuing a mysterious project that leads him to confront sinister cabals and giant talking bugs. The fruit of an unholy union between two masters of the hilarious and the macabre, Naked Lunch mingles aspects of Burroughs' novel with incidents from his own life, resulting in a compendium of paranoid fantasies and a searching investigation into the mysteries of the writing process.


Studio Criterion Collection
SKU 40230163
UPC 715515014922
UPC 14 00715515014922
Format DVD
Release Date 11/11/2003
Rating Rating
Cult Film
Essential Cinema
Substance Abuse
Theatrical Release
Editors Note
Note The dry wit of writer William S. Burroughs transfers surprisingly well to the screen. This partially biographical celluloid interpretation of his book shows Burroughs's daring and delirium as one of the experimental beat writers (with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg) who emerged in the late 1950s. In the lead role, Peter Weller does a dead-on Burroughs impression, and the film follows a bizarre logic and has a dark, rich look that makes it one of director David Cronenberg's more satisfying works. Bill Lee (Weller) is a pest-control man who would rather be a writer, and he is seeking escape from his troubled existence. After killing his wife, he flees to Interzone, a hallucinatory version of Tangiers (the location where Burroughs penned the book). There he finds that reality and fantasy have merged in a strange, surreal landscape inhabited by half-alien, half-insect creatures and odd humans. And finally, in this altered state, Lee can become a writer. Like other Cronenberg films, NAKED LUNCH is a bit squishy; it is full of pervasive biological dread. And this film is not exactly faithful to the novel. Instead, Cronenberg provides it with a neat framework that begins and ends with Lee shooting his wife Joan (Judy Davis) during a botched William Tell routine, just as Burroughs did in real life.
Memorable Quotes
Quote "It's impossible to make a movie out of 'Naked Lunch.' A literal translation just wouldn't work. It would cost $400 million to make and would be banned in every country of the world." -- David Cronenberg
Quote "You don't often see this operation performed, mainly because it is of no medical value" - Dr. Benway
Rolling Stone "...A pungently comic and inventive spellbinder....A burst of imagination that is literally out of this world..." 02/06/1992 p.87-8
New York Times "...A remarkable meeting of the minds....Hideously clever..." 12/27/1991 p.C1
Los Angeles Times "...[NAKED LUNCH's] dope-drenched, bug-house atmosphere, with the dream-like narrative spliced into glittery shards, is tailor-made for a director as attuned to the gloppiness of interior states as Cronenberg..." 12/27/1991 p.F1
Chicago Sun-Times "...Weller gives a performance as evocative as it is depressing..." 01/10/1992 p.33
Entertainment Weekly "...A burnished noir, its eye-popping colors suggesting a graphic novel come to life..." 11/21/2003 p.69
Film Comment "[T]his imaginative tour de force is a smarter, wittier film about the writing process than ADAPTATION." 01/01/2004 p.78
Uncut "NAKED LUNCH plunges Peter Weller and Judy Davis into a beatnik junkie netherworld....Cronenberg's most ambitious work to date." 09/01/2004 p.135
David Cronenberg
Peter Weller
Judy Davis
Cast & Crew
Ian Holm - Actor
Judy Davis - Actor
Julian Sands - Actor
Monique Mercure - Actor
Peter Weller - Actor
Roy Scheider - Actor
William S. Burroughs - Based On Novel By
Peter Suschitzky - Cinematographer
David Cronenberg - Director
Ronald Sanders - Editor
Jeremy Thomas - Original Music By
Ornette Coleman - Original Music By
Jeremy Thomas - Producer
David Cronenberg - Screenplay
Technical Info
Original Release Date 1991
Catalog ID 1599D
UPC 00715515014922
Number of Discs 1
Running Time 115 minutes
Color Color
Original Language English
Available Audio Tracks English [CC], English
Aspect Ratio
ReviewSource Washington Post
Review Despite its outrageous scenes -- including the ravishing of a gay youth by centipedal Sands -- there's something muted about the film. It feels studiously surrealistic, an excuse for cinematic buggery; deep in its center there's a lack of conviction. It's not an emotional movie. It's hard to feel engaged. Weller's well-known, simpatico face affords familiarity. In this psychic terrain, where you're on your own, you take whatever familiarity you can get. He gives as strong a performance as these strange circumstances allow. Yet it's small comfort. This movie feels like what it is -- a Canadian eulogy to a Burroughs novel.
Reviewer Desson Howe
ReviewRating 7
ReviewSource Chicago Sun-Times
Review ... But I'm spinning my wheels here, maybe to avoid the paradox of this film: While I admired it in an abstract way, I felt repelled by the material on a visceral level. There is so much dryness, death and despair here, in a life spinning itself out with no joy. Burroughs inhabits the madhouse of his mind, and as he is addressed by bugs and phantoms and the specter of his murdered wife, the most horrifying thing of all is that he reacts in the same detached, cold way. All except for a moment of grief he permits himself over her dead body. One suspects he could have cried out with the same rage and hurt all of his life.
Reviewer Roger Ebert
ReviewRating 7
DVD, Aspect Ratio 1.85:1, Hi-fi Stereo
Product Attributes
Actor Cronenberg,David
Music Format DVD
Video Format DVD
The New York Times A small masterpiece--moody, elegant, and funny as hell.
Variety A fascinating, demanding, mordantly funny picture.

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