Naked Lunch (film)  

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"Instead of filming the events and characters of the book, Cronenberg merged the book with the life of Burroughs, and even with some of his other works. It is metatextual in as much as the film depiction the creation of the book."--“Naked Lunch on Film: Filming the 'Unfilmable'.” Beatdom 5 (4 Apr. 2010)

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Naked Lunch is a 1991 science fiction drama film co-written and directed by David Cronenberg and starring Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, and Roy Scheider. It is partly an adaptation of William S. Burroughs' 1959 novel of the same name, partly a biopic of Burroughs, featuring elements of other Burroughs novels.

The film received positive reviews from critics, but was a box office bomb, garnering only $2.6 million out of a $17–18 million budget due to a limited release. It won numerous film awards and has since become a cult film.

The film score is composed by Cronenberg's staple composer, Howard Shore, and features free jazz musician Ornette Coleman.



William Lee is an exterminator who finds that his wife Joan is stealing his supply of insecticide to use as a recreational drug. Lee is arrested by the police, and he begins hallucinating as a result of exposure to the insecticide. Lee comes to believe that he is a secret agent, and his boss, a giant talking beetle, assigns him the mission of killing Joan, who is allegedly an agent of an organization called Interzone Incorporated. Lee dismisses the beetle's instructions and kills it. Lee returns home to find Joan having sex with Hank, one of his writer friends. Shortly afterwards, he accidentally kills her while attempting to shoot a drinking glass off her head in imitation of William Tell.

Having inadvertently accomplished his mission, Lee flees to Interzone, a city somewhere in North Africa. He spends his time writing reports concerning his mission; these documents, at the insistence of his visiting literary colleagues, are eventually compiled the titular book. Whilst Lee is under the influence of assorted mind-altering substances, his replacement typewriter, a Clark Nova, becomes a talking insect which tells him to find Dr. Benway by seducing Joan Frost, a doppelgänger of his dead wife. There is a row at gunpoint with Joan's husband Tom, after Lee steals his typewriter, which is then destroyed by the Clark Nova insect. Lee also encounters a gay Swiss gentleman, Yves Cloquet, who appears to be a monstrous centipede in disguise.

After coming to the conclusion that Dr. Benway is, in fact, the secret mastermind of a narcotics operation for a drug called "black meat" which is supposedly derived from the guts of giant Brazilian centipedes, Lee encounters Tom's housekeeper Fadela, previously observed to be an agent of the narcotics operation. Fadela reveals herself to be Dr. Benway in disguise. After being recruited as a double agent for the black meat operation, Lee completes his report and flees Interzone to Annexia with Joan Frost. Stopped by the Annexian border patrol and instructed to prove that he is a writer as he claims, Lee produces a pen. When this proves insufficient for passage, Lee, now having realized that his accidental murder of Joan Lee is what has driven him to become a writer, demonstrates his William Tell routine using a glass atop Joan Frost's head. He again misses, and thus re-enacts the earlier killing of his wife. The border guards cheerfully bid him welcome to Annexia, and his new life as a writer. Lee is shown shedding a tear at this bittersweet accomplishment.


The film score is composed by Cronenberg's staple composer, Howard Shore, and features free jazz musician Ornette Coleman. The music of the Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar is also featured throughout the film. The use of Coleman's composition "Midnight Sunrise", recorded for his Dancing in Your Head album, is relevant, as author William S. Burroughs was present during the 1973 recording session.


See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Naked Lunch (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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