"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
"You don't often see this operation performed, mainly because it is of no medical value" - Dr. Benway
Rolling Stone - 02/06/1992
"...A pungently comic and inventive spellbinder....A burst of imagination that is literally out of this world..."
New York Times - 12/27/1991
"...A remarkable meeting of the minds....Hideously clever..."
Los Angeles Times - 12/27/1991
"...[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..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 01/10/1992
"...Weller gives a performance as evocative as it is depressing..."
Entertainment Weekly - 11/21/2003
"...A burnished noir, its eye-popping colors suggesting a graphic novel come to life..."
Film Comment - 01/01/2004
"[T]his imaginative tour de force is a smarter, wittier film about the writing process than ADAPTATION."
Uncut - 09/01/2004
"NAKED LUNCH plunges Peter Weller and Judy Davis into a beatnik junkie netherworld....Cronenberg's most ambitious work to date."
Description by OLDIES.com:
"Exterminate all rational thought," Naked Lunch, William S, Burroughs' hallucinatory, "unfilmable" novel, is finally realized onscreen 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 searching investigation into the mysteries of the writing process.
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.
Shot on location in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, using Film House color, Dolby sound.
Began shooting January 21, 1991; Completed shooting April 20, 1991.
Shown at the 1991 Berlin Film Festival.
The director originally planned to shoot the film in Tangiers, but due to the outbreak of the Gulf War in January 1991, he abandoned the idea.
Judy Davis was named best actress in 1992 for her performances in NAKED LUNCH, BARTON FINK, and HUSBANDS AND WIVES by the London Film Critics Circle. She was also awarded Best Supporting Actress in 1991 for her work in NAKED LUNCH and BARTON FINK.
NAKED LUNCH received 11 Canadian Genie awards for 1992. The film was also honored for best screenplay and best director by the National Society of Film Critics. In addition, the film was chosen for best screenplay by the Boston Society of Film Critics in 1991.
William S. Burroughs, who wrote the original story in 1959, was among other things, a Beat Generation writer along with fellow writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Burroughs exiled himself to Tangiers during the 1950s following the accidental shooting death of his wife, Joan, in 1951. Burroughs continued to write for years while residing in Lawrence, Kansas, after moving there in 1981.