Naked Lunch Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ October 14, 2010
A surrealist film from the debonair auteur with a flair for the unsettling: David Cronenberg. Adapted from the William S. Burroughs novel and starring the eccentric yet keen Peter Weller, there is a fine line between utmost devotion and utter loathing for this film. For me it wasn't exactly the realism in the fantasies as seen through the eyes of a puritanical junkie, but how these obvious hallucinations interacted with the fantastical plot and the cavalcade of characters. The film follows an exterminator named William Lee who becomes addicted to the bug powder he peddles, and starts having intense and very specific kinds of hallucinations that drive him to start a life of crime, insanity, and commonly talking to his typewriter. These hallucinations tell him that he's a secret agent, his wife is against him, and homosexuality is a sin but is essential in the line of duty. Throughout the film visions of talking cockroaches/typewriters, and out of this world octopus hybrids are seamlessly strung along the plot to encompass the true absurdity of the situation. William Lee is an interesting character on his own, without the eccentricities that being a junkie include. He's cryptic with his words, and the strange speeches he spills forth are slightly egomaniacal and very isolating. He still interacts with the populous while hiding in plain sight, but when he is alone it's a depth of darkness that has to stay hidden and leads to more egotistical rants by William himself. The reason this film is so unbelievably amazing to me is that he recognizes that these hallucinations are just that in the beginning, the fact that a bug was communicating with him was something that led to his mind expelling the beast. Still, his problematic brain and his dire reality fuse to become a powder keg of insecurities. He knows these things are in his mind, but he's not sure if he's replacing them with actual human contact or it's an amalgamation of the drugs and what we all call reality. It's the fact that we only see a small glimpse of truth, once during the film, and the rest is some dream sequence with no true parameters except a timeline, which makes this genius. Yes, the bugs and parasitic creatures are unsettling and have the same monotone, warbling voices, but they're all part of the mindset of a very imbibed individual. The one thing that perturbed me was the psychotic ending with the strange yet logical reveal. It was too crazy, too convoluted and intricate to be a hallucination. While this film is not for everyone, it does give a great interpretation of a comparatively half-real life, powered by a strong drug of choice.
Super Reviewer
January 22, 2012
Bill Lee: America is not a young land. It is old and dirty, evil. Before the settlers, before the Indians, the evil is there, waiting. 

"Exterminate all rational thought."

Beyond bizarre. So far beyond bizarre that it's hard to organize my thoughts about what I have just seen. All I know for sure is that in the end, I really didn't care for it.

For the first half hour or so, I was in love with the movie. I found the whole insect poison as a drug thing interesting. As the film went on, I started to fall out of love with it. Then altogether, I just lost interest in what I was seeing. The viewing experience is very much like getting high. At first your having fun, it is a great time; but you must come down, and I did... hard. 

To explain more than a few details of this plot would be tedious. So I'll just keep it to the bare minimums. An exterminator learns that his wife has been stealing his powder and has been shooting it up. His wife then turns him, an ex-junkie himself, onto the drug and soon is just as addicted as his wife. Then he starts hallucinating. Bugs are telling him secret information about all sorts of wild stuff. For awhile, the bug scenes are incredibly interesting, but after the third or fourth one, they become boring. 

I won't say that I hated this movie altogether. Maybe with another watch later in life, I'll enjoy the whole experience more. Cronenberg is just a weird director and that's what makes him so interesting. I can't say that I'm a huge fan of him, yet. I've only seen five of his movies and I have fallen completely in love with any of them. But one thing I will say is that the bizarreness of Cronenberg is much easier to watch and get through, than that of Lynch.

If this plot at all interests you, I would at least give it a shot. It's well made and big time fans of Cronenberg should love it. Even if you don't like it in the end; there's enough interesting stuff going on, that it won't feel like you just completely wasted your time. You are sure to see images that you have never seen in another movie.
Super Reviewer
½ October 27, 2011
Adapting an unadaptable book, Cronenberg works weird Sci-Fi magic with this strange movie experience.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
½ October 7, 2011
"It's a literary high. It's a kafka high, you feel like a bug". So says Joan Lee, who has adopted the new and interesting drug habit of shooting up her exterminator husband Bill's bug poison. Not too much later, Bill accidentally shoots his wife in the head while playing a drunken round of "William Tell" (trying to shoot a glass off of her head). This sends him spiraling into the mad world of "interzone", some northern african land (Tangier?) full of secret agent bugs that disguise themselves as sexual typewriters, and secret lesbian cults. Director David Cronenberg somehow captures the madness of the fifties "beat" culture and the comedic darkness of both the Naked Lunch novel and the life of it's author, William S. Burroughs in a film that also manages to tell a linear story in the process. The artistic process, the literary process, the romantic process, and the effect of hard drugs on the state of the creative mind are all themes explored within the movie. It's the mad adventure of losing touch with reality, and living the life of a secret agent in one's own mind.
Matthew Roe
Super Reviewer
September 27, 2011
David Cronenberg's film adaptation of William S. Burroughs' novel Naked Lunch is so unwatchable, so shocking, so unnerving I consider it not only a film worthy of all of its hype, but also the polar opposite or antagonist of the book and Terry Gilliam film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's work, Fear and Loathing in Lost Vegas. Where Thompson's and Gilliam's works are more mental trips of great cultural investigation portrayed through massive drug binges and psychedelic adventures accompanied by the music and fashion of the hippie movement, Naked Lunch is deep, depressing, cynical, and beyond out of control, in the worst possible way. As opposed to Fear and Loathing, where I could see a lot of fun and personal reflection and discovery amidst the chaos, Naked Lunch is basically the worst high ever experienced, void of catharsis or a clear social or cultural ultimatum. From talking typewriters in the shape of giant homicidal beetles to killing his wife by shooting her in the face, it sets the sights on the utter depravity of the quest for peace of mind and in the process of completely and abysmally failing at this, it also, in a strange way, shows what is advertently wrong with much of the world. This also paints a very vivid and disgusted picture of the death of the American Dream, which preempted Thompson's Fear and Loathing (which more clearly stated this conclusion) by 13 years. Though the film is more of an investigation into Burrows' actual life than following the book, it still represents the air of the novel and the constant indiscernible switch between reality and horror keeps you on edge. No, it is not at all an easy film to sit through and no, not everything makes sense, sometimes not in the slightest. It also represents the great tumultuous inner conflict of the world of a massively dehumanized and well-spoken drug addict. William S. Burrows was injecting everything from heroin to morphine and even melting down and injecting insecticide. This tale starts in reality, but soon after the stasis is left behind, there is never again a clear definable line on where the real world starts and Burroughs' drug-induced world of the Interzone begins. A definite recommendation, but only if you have a strong stomach to see William's twisted mental fragments and horrifying life while writing the novel and David Cronenberg's lust for things cinematically savage and unsparing.
Super Reviewer
June 15, 2011
David Cronenberg's adaptation of William Burrough's Naked Lunch is one of the most bizarre Sci Fi horror films to come out in a long time. no other director could accomplish such a a bizzare cinematic experience than David Cronenberg. Combining his eccentric filmmaking with an equally disturbed book for its source of inspiration, David Cronenberg has crafted a film that really twists your mind and shatters reality.The novel by William Burroughs was deemed unfilmable, but Cronenberg has successfully adapted the book to the screen, to horrifying and bizarre results. Naked Lunch is a film that spans different genres into one film, and what you get here is a film that is a surrealistic nightmare much like David Lynch's Eraserhead. Naked Lunch is a different change of pace for David Cronenberg, but it still has all his usual trademarks. The cast in Naked Lunch are terrific and Peter Weller here delivers his best performance since Robocop. Naked Lunch is a well crafted surrealistic sci fi horror film that keeps you interested because it dwells on the bizarre, a subject that David Cronenberg has long mastered. The film has many memorable scenes and stands out as another phenomenal Cronenberg film.
Super Reviewer
January 27, 2011
A disappointing, over-rated movie detailing the struggles of writing and the affects it has on an exterminator's (Peter Weller) life. While certainly ambitious and appropriately weird based on the director's (the quite average David Cronenberg) style, this film ultimately suffers from a glacial pace as well as a hard-to-follow storyline. This movie challenges you to think and pay attention to every detail, however minuscule it might appear, perceiving its audience to be intelligent and to be able to know enough to "get by" at the end. The non-linear fashion helps keep the the film watchable since you are constantly trying to figure out what is going on, but in other ways it slows the movie down when none of the dialogue or characters make much sense. Peter Weller's simple, somewhat robotic performance fits this piece perfectly, unfortunately the way this thing plods along in addition to a weird subplot (dealing with the subject of homosexuality - which seems to go nowhere) drag this thing into mediocrity. With that said, the creatures and visuals on display here, as well as some of the ideas, are undeniably impressive, but in the end that does not make the movie worth sticking through.
Super Reviewer
November 21, 2010
I think one has to evaluate films like this based on level of engagement; after all, the film sets out to violate all narrative conventions, and most of the other categories by which we judge films don't apply or the filmmakers intentionally ignore. So, I give this film two stars based on my purely subjective lack of engagement.
One obvious problem I had: the Arab world is once again portrayed as the place from which all strangeness comes. In a film that makes up various locales and has bug powder stand in for heroin, it is odd that one of the realities in the film is a narrow-minded conception of Arabia.
William S. Burroughs, the author of the novel upon which this film is based, didn't believe in revision, a lesson I contradict to my students. Burroughs believed that the first thought was always the best, the most true, the most expressive of author's intent. And by way of apology/explanation, this theory is advocated by the film's characters. Indeed, I see Naked Lunch as being more about writing than it is about a drug-addicted exterminator navigating a convoluted, noir plot. Lee falls accidentally into writing, much as Burroughs did, and he has a complex, adversarial relationship with the tools of his trade (the typewriters turn into talking bugs who tell him to seduce various other characters). It seems as though Naked Lunch is attempting to problematize the written word and the process by which it's produced.
Perhaps because I'm a writer and teacher of writing, this part of the plot spoke to me. The rest of it just climbed up various rungs on the fucked-up ladder.
Super Reviewer
August 27, 2010
I really feel that I have no place to analyze what I've seen (though I adored the abstract sensory perversity of it). Is it Cronenberg? Is it Burroughs? Cronenberg doing a Burroughs about Burroughs? Somehow I doubt it's that literal.

Maybe after I read the book.
Super Reviewer
May 5, 2010
This is a very crazy movie, comes from a book during the 1950 era, and the author had to be on drugs. About a Pest Exterminator that uses his power to put in his veins rather then in his equipment, and we go on his internal mind voyages. The movie was one that made me wonder how the hell did it get on my list to see, so I ask are any of you to blame, did any of you recommend it to me????? I plead with you past this one up and do something better like go lay out in the sun till your skin blisters, it will be less painful, 1 Star and I am being nice.

Super Reviewer
February 2, 2008
"So Fucked Up" highlight: shooting the wife on accident
Super Reviewer
½ January 1, 2010
Along with Existenz and Videodrome, this is one of Cronenberg's most bizarre forms storytelling. It is a completely unique form of storytelling that borrows a lot from Burrows while actually being quite unique. It is truly the inner workings of someone on his own bug powder, so of course almost nothing is going to make plausible sense. I don't think there's actually anything bad that I can say about this movie because it succeeds at everything it set out to accomplish. The acting is great at perfectly convincing. Cronenberg's filming style is as prevalent as ever and really makes an impression on the viewer.
Super Reviewer
½ January 6, 2009
Picture a film noir Eraserhead populated with drug addicted homosexual entomologists. Bizarre yet thoroughly engrossing.
Super Reviewer
April 18, 2009
An exterminator gets hooked on bug powder and flees the law into the mysterious, Casablanca-like "Interzone," while writing a novel and receiving instructions from his typewriter. Loose adaptation of William S. Burroughs surrealistic, stream-of-consciousness novel about drug abuse by David Cronenberg is incomprehensible, of course, but worth seeing to see the large variety of scary breathing bug-typewriters who haunt the writers of Interzone.
Super Reviewer
½ November 16, 2007
This film is in the same vein as a David Lynch movie, making absolutely no sense, with the exception of it didn't suck poop like a David Lynch movie. Until I find out more about it, it seems to me this movie was written by Cronenberg after he fried on acid, and he basically just wrote down his drug trip word for word. Still, who doesn't love to see tree-somes between a guy, a girl and a typewriter, a bunch of aliens chained up to have their gizzum drained from tubes on their heads, and countless references to giant centipedes that get ground up into drugs?
Super Reviewer
½ May 5, 2007
Profoundly and delightfully bizarre
Super Reviewer
July 1, 2007
Disgusting cinematographical idealization of William S. Burroughs in the context of his own drug-induced novel, Naked Lunch, with references to Kafka's Methamorphoses and involving an incredible performance by Peter Weller, great cinematography and even better music by Howard Shore and Ornette Coleman. Beware of the many forms typewriters can assume to suit their needs.
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