Naked Lunch

A remarkably lucid and enjoyable riff on an unfilmable (some say unreadable) book — William S. Burroughs’ cult novel about addiction and dehumanization. Burroughs had been one of Cronenberg’s biggest influences (Nabokov was another, and I’d have given anything to have seen Cronenberg adapt Lolita instead of Adrian Lyne), so it was a neat fit. Cronenberg doesn’t even pretend to “adapt” Burroughs in any conventional sense. He draws from Burroughs’ life and from scattered incidents in the book, supplying a context for the writing of the novel. Cronenberg liked to joke that he and Burroughs had stepped into the telepod together, and what emerged from the other telepod was the movie. Peter Weller’s hilariously deadpan performance as bug exterminator and struggling writer Bill Lee seems to bear this out: he looks and sounds like a fusion of the author and the director. A lot of weird fun, with an eclectic cast including Judy Davis (in two roles), Ian Holm, Roy Scheider (having a ball as Doc Benway), and Mugwumps built by Chris Walas. Both a making-of book and documentary were released (and now hard to find). Burroughs died in 1998.

Explore posts in the same categories: adaptation, art-house, cronenberg, cult, one of the year's best

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