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 Post subject: 220 Naked Lunch
PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2005 9:16 pm 

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Naked Lunch

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In this adaptation of William S. Burroughs’s hallucinatory, once-thought unfilmable novel Naked Lunch, directed by David Cronenberg, a part-time exterminator and full-time drug addict named Bill Lee (Robocop’s Peter Weller) plunges into the nightmarish Interzone, a netherworld of sinister cabals and giant talking bugs. Alternately humorous and grotesque—and always surreal—the film mingles aspects of Burroughs’s novel with incidents from the writer’s own life, resulting in an evocative paranoid fantasy and a self-reflexive investigation into the mysteries of the creative process.


DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:

- High-definition digital transfer, approved by director David Cronenberg, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
- Audio commentary featuring Cronenberg and actor Peter Weller
- Naked Making Lunch, a 1992 television documentary by Chris Rodley about the making of the film
- Special effects gallery, featuring artwork and photos alongside an essay by Cinefex magazine editor Jody Duncan
- Collection of original marketing materials
- Audio recording of William S. Burroughs reading from his novel Naked Lunch
- Gallery of photos taken by poet Allen Ginsberg of Burroughs
- PLUS: A booklet featuring reprinted pieces by film critic Janet Maslin, director Chris Rodley, critic and novelist Gary Indiana, and Burroughs


Criterionforum.org user rating averages



Last edited by Martha on Mon Nov 28, 2005 1:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2005 8:50 pm 
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While I have a lot of time for the movie I have some issues with the conscious reduction fo the homosexual ambience of Burrough's work down to a couple of scenes. It may have been too much to ask a non-gay director and writer to fully submerge the material in this, as part of the general "criminality" of the milieu. But I love many of Cronenberg's inventions, particularly the realization of the Mugwamp!

One gripe - I am not crazy with Criterion's transfer, which is too biased to red. On the evidence of the Beavercaps I would have preferred to buy the French disc (but the Criterion extras are fine.)


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2005 9:51 pm 
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I personally thought this release went beyond "fine." For anyone who is a fan of the book this should be a sure-fire purchase. And for anyone that hasn't read the book and has an open mind the book should be a sure-fire purchase, followed by the movie. The extras, especially the commentary, which elaborates on visual symbols I missed the first time through, are wonderful. The book reading by Burroughs is great and unique.

The film itself is a very beautiful piece as far as color and composition.

Anyone who had trouble following this film likely has not read the book.

Also, anyone who is interested in adapting a novel to a film should read and see these two. A direct visual adaptation of the book, as said by Cronenberg himself, would be the most expensive film ever, so it is interesting to see how such an abstract text is adapted.

The mugwumps are wonderful. Robocop did a great job too.

Two thumbs up for the novel and the film and this criterion release.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2005 10:33 pm 
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I haven't read the novel, but I bought the Criterion disc and absolutely loved it. I had seen it once in high school and didn't have a clue what was going on, but when I saw it again I somehow "got" it; or at least had a theory that seemed to work out, and it lined up, more or less, with what Cronenberg and Peter Weller talk about on the commentary. So now I feel like I'm in on something, some kind of important secret, and that makes me rank "Naked Lunch" at the top of Cronenberg's output. Beyond those things, I will have to agree that it's very beautiful on a purely aesthetic level.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2005 11:10 pm 
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Narratively (if you can use this term) and formally Cronenberg and Burroughs certainly make a very interesting job of weaving together parts of the book (itself phantasmagorically autobiographical), parts of Burrough's "Junkie" and aspects of Burrough's life, as he tells it anyway. Certainly for anyone who has read this, and Soft Machine and Ticket that Exploded the thought that anyone could film Naked Lunch in any meaningful fashion seemed absurd, but Cronenberg proved us wrong.
For anyone interested further in Burroughs, Gus van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy is also recommended for Burrough's appearance.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 9:21 am 
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flixyflox wrote:
Narratively (if you can use this term) and formally Cronenberg and Burroughs certainly make a very interesting job of weaving together parts of the book (itself phantasmagorically autobiographical), parts of Burrough's "Junkie" and aspects of Burrough's life, as he tells it anyway.

Agreed. Cronenberg wisely didn't attempt a faithful adaptation -- as he has said if he did the film would be banned in every country. Instead, he blends elements of the book along with two of Burroughs' earlier efforts, Exterminator and Junky with autobiographical elements from the Burroughs' life, as you pointed out.

I always thought that Cronenberg was the perfect filmmaker to tackle Burroughs. Like the writer, Cronenberg is fascinated by the merging of flesh with machines. One only has to look at Videodrome to see Burroughs' influence—the mix of pulpy exploitation with high concept ideas.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:35 am 
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Fletch F. Fletch wrote:
...he blends elements of the book along with two of Burroughs' earlier efforts, Exterminator and Junky with autobiographical elements from the Burroughs' life...

I think knowledge and familiarity with these Burroughs works, and his life -- plus that of Kerouac, Ginsberg or Paul Bowles just adds to the incredible richness of Cronenberg's film.

Cronenberg's ingenious mélange of Burroughs -- the bug powder as junk that, as Joan Lee says, "...it's a Kafka high. It makes you feel like a bug" -- is utterly brilliant. The first time I saw it, I laughed so hard that tears were streaming down my face.

The ending is one Cronenberg's best -- a perfect, haunting evocation of a spiritual union of Burroughs and Kafka.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:41 pm 
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I stumbled across this fantastic page that features clips of Burroughs for your downloading pleasure, including the awesome "Thanksgiving Prayer" short film that Gus Van Sant directed. Check it out:

http://realitystudio.org/multimedia/


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2005 10:47 am 

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sure i have to watch it again


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2005 12:33 pm 
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I always hear how no one understood this the first time they saw it, and how disgusting it was. Some people told me they couldn't stomach watching this more than once. I myself found this to be rather tame and understandable. I think the problem is that people who see this for the first time expect it to be complicated, complicated to the point that they wont understand it. But if you listen and watch carefully you can see it''s a fairly simple sotry, granted I haven't read the book, but the first time I saw this I understood it perfectly and didn't find it disgusting at all. I found it to be a beautiful work of art, like a moving painting. Many people I talk to always say it was a drama, but I consider it a dark comedy. Maybe I just have a different outlook on life and film than them.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:16 am 
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Saw it on DVD now in addition to the 2 times in the theater and still find this film, though visually interesting, naive. Love to hear the thoughts of heavy devotees of this who are also dedicated Burroughs fans. (Fandom for this film without having much knowledge of the book would I'd imagine make one, admittedly, freer to float thru the text with greater receptivity.)


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 9:03 am 
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HerrSchreck wrote:
Saw it on DVD now in addition to the 2 times in the theater and still find this film, though visually interesting, naive. Love to hear the thoughts of heavy devotees of this who are also dedicated Burroughs fans. (Fandom for this film without having much knowledge of the book would I'd imagine make one, admittedly, freer to float thru the text with greater receptivity.)

Well, Cronenberg couldn't do a faithful adaptation of Burroughs' book (it would have been banned in every country) so I think he wise in merging parts of the book with autobiographical elements from the man's life and also from other books like Junky and Exterminator. It's interesting if you've read these other books and Naked Lunch to see where Cronenberg inserted bits and pieces from each throughout the film. And there is also some of Cronenberg's own stuff, like the talking bug typewriter which isn't in any of Burroughs' books but he liked that idea when Cronenberg suggested it to him.

I don't know what you mean about the naive comment, though. Could you care to elaborate on it?


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 11:30 am 
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Quote:
It's interesting if you've read these other books and Naked Lunch to see where Cronenberg inserted bits and pieces from each throughout the film. And there is also some of Cronenberg's own stuff, like the talking bug typewriter which isn't in any of Burroughs' books but he liked that idea when Cronenberg suggested it to him.

Agreed. The film mines the thematic synergy between Burroughs' work and Cronenberg's in a way that blurs the boundaries between the two artists' ideas. While this maps some provocative and exciting territory for those of us who are interested in the work of both artists, I can't imagine what others must make of it. So much of Burroughs's own experience, as filtered through the largely autobiographical Junky as much as through Naked Lunch, form the basis for Cronenberg's singularly empathetic film; it was a marriage made in the Interzone.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 12:30 pm 
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I have to agree that this film is a little naive in that it comes off like it was made by a Burroughs fan, sitting cross-legged on the floor, giddily typing away at his laptop with all his well worn paperbacks scattered about. Cronenberg was clearly very excited to be making a Burroughs film and his fandom show though in several scenes, sometimes jarringly so. Certain lines of dialogue, for example, have been lifted, out of context, from Burroughs work and inserted (or rather crammed) into the film so that Cronenberg can wink to the Burroughs-savvy viewer. The "Talking Ass-Hole" routine is unnecessary in the context of the film just as the "no glot, clom fliday" line is. I also have always had a problem with the inclusion of Joan's shooting not once, but twice (a incident which Burroughs himself never included in his fiction until the intro to Queer in the mid-eighties) but the near total deletion of Burroughs homosexuality except for a few clumsy mentions and a shoot of Kiki in the bed. I believe that its in the doc 'Naked Making Lunch" that Cronenberg says that since he is not homosexual he felt unable to properly handle the material, but if he feels that way then he should stay away from Burroughs post Junky work altogether, since homosexuality and drugs are constantly present throughout the breadth of Burroughs work. However, I enjoyed many aspects of the film, mostly the surrealistic parts; the typewriters, the Mugwumps (although far less vicious then in the book) the giant aquatic centipede. Being a long time Burroughs fan I don't feel this film represents his work beyond touching briefly on a few of his themes, characters and images. However, as a Cronenberg film its pretty good. But Naked Lunch (and most of Burroughs work) simply does not translate to film, the power of his literary voice is lost. You can't travel through Interzone without a guide and Burroughs is the only one that knows his way around the back alleys, crowded plazas and dimmly lit cafes, Cronenberg stops, presses a finger to his lips and says "now I was sure it was this way..." Cronenberg is able to better wield his Burroughs influences when is using them in his own work i.e. Videodrome and Dead Ringers.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 4:27 pm 
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Cobalt60 wrote:
Cronenberg was clearly very excited to be making a Burroughs film and his fandom show though in several scenes, sometimes jarringly so. Certain lines of dialogue, for example, have been lifted, out of context, from Burroughs work and inserted (or rather crammed) into the film so that Cronenberg can wink to the Burroughs-savvy viewer. The "Talking Ass-Hole" routine is unnecessary in the context of the film just as the "no glot, clom fliday" line is.

I see what you're saying, and to the Burroughs' fan, Cronenberg's film does play like a Best Of collection of sorts but to those who may be discovering the man for the first time then his film might almost act as a primer of sorts. I know a few people who started reading Burroughs after seeing Cronenberg's film. The problem I always had was the jokey way Cronenberg portrayed the obvious Ginsberg and Kerouac characters.

Quote:
I also have always had a problem with the inclusion of Joan's shooting not once, but twice (a incident which Burroughs himself never included in his fiction until the intro to Queer in the mid-eighties)


Well, I think the point Cronenberg was trying to make that this incident was a pivotal point in Burroughs' life and I always felt that the repetition at the end was a reference to something Burroughs said about how shooting Joan turned him into a writer and that he wrote as a way of dealing with the guilt of shooting her. I don't know if that makes any sense but in terms of tone it always felt right to me.

Quote:
Being a long time Burroughs fan I don't feel this film represents his work beyond touching briefly on a few of his themes, characters and images. However, as a Cronenberg film its pretty good. But Naked Lunch (and most of Burroughs work) simply does not translate to film, the power of his literary voice is lost. You can't travel through Interzone without a guide and Burroughs is the only one that knows his way around the back alleys, crowded plazas and dimmly lit cafes, Cronenberg stops, presses a finger to his lips and says "now I was sure it was this way..." Cronenberg is able to better wield his Burroughs influences when is using them in his own work i.e. Videodrome and Dead Ringers.

You make some great points and I certainly understand where you're coming from and you're right, Cronenberg's assimilation of Burroughsian themes works better when he merges them with his own preoccupations in his other films but I still really like Naked Lunch for what it is.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2006 12:22 pm 
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Fletch F. Fletch wrote:
I don't know what you mean about the naive comment, though. Could you care to elaborate on it?

I'll try and get my thoughts on this out here the best I can.

Whenever a guy ups and decides "I'm going to go ahead and make a book out of (insert world-consciousness-upending novel like MOBY DICK, QUIXOTE, ULYSSES, NAKED LUNCH, etc)," he treads in zones where many filmmakers fear to tread, not necessarily because the material is, a la NAKED LUNCH, 'unfilmmable', but because they cannot match wits with the author.

Although NL is a fascinating book filled with some of the most explosively beatiful imagery on the face of the earth, is also hilarious (book made a fool outa me so many times on the NYC subway laughing so hard until I had the whole car looking at my red tearsoaked face, more I tried to contain it the worse it got), is also prophetic beyond biblical lines, is also innovative to the nth degree... although all of these things remain and scream their existence into the viscera of the reader, what it is that astounds the individual who can process the sum of Burroughs is the astronomical genius of the man. His intelligence and talent was so far out into the human stratosphere that you begin to understand that it's a little embarassing trying to even describe what's excellent about his work, as the superlatives usually fall short of conjuring up the scope the same way Universe cannot illustrate the sum of everything including the earth. For Burrough's intelligence (Ginsberg & Kerouac proffessed to openly "sit at his feet", Kerouac described him, when out of his presence, as the "most intelligent man in America"; Norman Mailer, that most envious and competitive of writers declared Burroughs "perhaps the only living American writer conceivably posessed by genius", etc) was combined with such a radical understanding of who the hysterically moralizing Shits of the world were vs. folks who could relax and mind their own business that the level of what some would refer to as "cool" posessed by this liptwitching paranoid man made his intelligence that much more unique. This coming from a midwestern wasp, a Harvard educated coulda-been-buck of a vested American family who insured that he lived what he believed by severing all possible social ties from his original milieu by publishing autobioghraphical works that openly declared himself a junky, a homosexual, an investigator of those areas of life which sent the bourgoise into shrieks of hysterics... insuring there was never a 'way back' for him at a time when it was not at all clear that he could secure an income from writing.

It's the full plate of what makes Burroughs Burroughs that causes folks to return and return again to his work. He is his books. They really fall into no genre, they're not science fiction, not the mindless self-promoting Faction droozle of "A MILLION LITTLE PIECES", etc.

So the man who steps up to that plate and says "I am now going to make NAKED LUNCH" will always do so humbly cheeping about "Of course it's not going to be, uh, you know, the definitive NL..."

It has less to do with mise en scene, acting, etc, as it does with the fact there is always going to be continent-sized gulf between the mind of the film's creators and the mind of Burroughs. That's what I mean about the film reading as naive. Compared to Burroughs, some of the stuff in the movie is almost embarassing in it's bourgoise-wierdness. It comes off as the cute construction of a creative Burroughs fan with a nice budget and very good filmmaking skills. But when tackling the supreme creations of the five or six most rarified minds ever to walk the surface of the modern world, a moderate amount of Affirmative Action is going to have to be granted the director in most cases.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 5:20 pm 
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The Village Voice has reprinted J. Hoberman's review of the film.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 3:17 am 
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This is a righteous film that is worth seeing again and again (but read the book first). The way writers (and typewriters) are depicted is nothing short of brilliant. I really shouldn't comment on how "beat" the movie is compared to the book. It's like apples and oranges.

Note: Of course I was a Burroughs fan long before this movie was made. And yes, I would still like to see a film version of Junky or Queer.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 11:55 am 
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The banner ad at the bottom of the page advertised a "Naked Lunch Ringtone" while I was reading this thread. I shudder to think what that would sound like.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 12:00 pm 
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Like an asshole


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 12:04 pm 
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I always thought Alan Parker (sp in Angel Heart) capable of creating the sense of precisely drawn shabbiness and decay resident in Junky. The feeling of shabby obscurity running through Angel Heart, i e the wonderful use of decrepit locations in NYC & New Orleans (coincidentally the scene of much of the action in Junky), mimics the atmopshere of Junky quite well.

I just don't know if the present day team Parker-Seresen is capable of those levels of atomic genius anymore.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 9:45 am 
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So you can watch the entire film on Hulu. It appears to be uncut. I found this a little unexpected.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 10:07 am 
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not a bad site, actually..


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 Post subject: Re: 220 Naked Lunch
PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:13 am 

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I have the Optimum release of Naked Lunch (R2, 2004). I will buy the Criterion release eventually because of the additional extras and booklet, but I am interested: to anyone who has both, are the commentaries the same? I mean, the Optimum disc has a solo Cronenberg commentary, so is this same one as the Criterion but without Peter Weller? This is assuming the Criterion commentary is one track with Cronenberg and Weller recorded at different times...


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 Post subject: Re: 220 Naked Lunch
PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 11:29 am 
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I don't have the Optimum, but it could also be the solo Cronenberg commentary that's on the old French disc. The Criterion commentary is not the same.


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