Naked Lunch [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1991]

The film that many thought impossible to make finds its way to DVD in fine form with this feature-packed Criterion release. Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the image is pristine, from the drab interiors of the inner city to the mysterious streets of Interzone. Although the colors are fairly muted, accurate skin tones and solid blacks are presented in a clean print that's free of grain or debris. The Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack isn't necessarily dynamic, but the jazzy score rings through effectively with no audible hiss or distortion. While fans of the film will certainly be pleased with such a fine visual presentation, it's an audio feature that will most likely have David Cronenberg fans clamoring for this release. It's quite a rare event when this particular director sits down to record a commentary track and, thankfully, Criterion convinced not only him but also star Peter Weller to expound on their experiences making Naked Lunch. Though the track isn't what one could call lively (in fact, it sounds as if Weller and Cronenberg likely recorded their contributions separately), it does draw the listener into the complex production and offers rare insight into the mind of the man many consider to be one of the greatest living directors of horror cinema. From thoughts on the Saul Bass-inspired credits to the cinematic methods he used to incorporate the styles of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg into his film, Cronenberg is never dull. It's also interesting to hear Weller recall his first meeting with Burroughs and the amusing response that the author had upon first seeing his celluloid doppelganger. In addition to the commentary track, disc two offers a variety of fascinating supplements. Taken from London Weekend Television, the documentary Naked Making Lunch offers informative interviews with the cast and crew (including the revelation that star Judy Davis -- offended that she would be considered for such a role -- actually threw the script across the room upon first read) that truly draw viewers into the production. The inclusion of original storyboards from experimental filmmaker Anthony Balch's abandoned adaptation of Naked Lunch a few years after the book's initial release is especially compelling. A special-effects gallery offers an good introduction followed by six photo galleries (which include everything from pre-production sketches to photos of the final products, all containing detailed notes), in addition to marketing materials (including a promotional featurette), a trailer, television spots, and a B-roll montage of behind-the-scenes footage accompanied by an appropriately jazzy score. A reading of Naked Lunch excerpts by the author himself will certainly be treasured by fans of the book and movie, and photos of Burroughs taken by Ginsberg offer a rare peek into the worldly writer's early years. A 32-page booklet featuring essays by film critic Janet Maslin, Chris Rodley, Gary Indiana, and Burroughs rounds out the package nicely, with Burroughs' thoughts on Cronenberg's adaptation bringing the whole package fill circle.
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Overview

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Special Features

  • New high-definition digital transfer approved by director David Cronenberg and enhanced for widescreen televisions
  • Audio commentary featuring Cronenberg and actor Peter Weller
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • RSDL dual-layer edition for optimal image quality
  • "Naked Making Lunch" making-of documentary by Chris Rodley
  • Illustrated essay on the special effects by Jody Duncan, editor of Cinefex magazine, featuring artifacts from Cronenberg's archive
  • Film stills gallery
  • Original marketing materials
  • William S. Burroughs' audio recording of excerpts from Naked Lunch
  • Archival stills of William S. Burroughs from The Allen Ginsberg Trust
  • 32-page booklet featuring essays by film critic Janet Maslin, Chris Rodley, Gary Indiana, and a piece by William S. Burroughs

Synopsis

Naked Lunch
This cinematic/literary hybrid fuses motifs from Beat writer William S. Burroughs's novel of the same name with elements of the author's biography and plenty of the cerebral alienation and biomorphic special effects fans of creepy cult director David Cronenberg have come to expect. Bill Lee (Peter Weller) wants to write, but he exterminates bugs to pay the bills. His wife, Joan (Judy Davis), becomes addicted to Bill's bug powder dust, and soon he joins her in a world of unorthodox hallucinogens; he visits the kindly yet sinister Dr. Benway (Roy Scheider) and walks away with his first dose of the black meat -- a narcotic made from the flesh of the giant aquatic Brazilian centipede. Soon, monstrous beetles are whispering conspiracy theories in Bill's ears and his nebbish writer friends Hank (Nicholas Campbell) and Martin (Michael Zelniker) are sleeping with Joan under his nose. When a party trick involving a liquor glass and a gun goes awry, killing Joan, Bill flees to Interzone, a Mediterranean city full of talking insectoid typewriters, double agents, offbeat aesthetes, and plots within plots. As he navigates this paranoid landscape, Bill begins ingesting another drug called mugwump jism and writes fragments that Hank and Martin soon assemble into a novel under the title Naked Lunch. As beat literature aficionados know, Interzone is based on Tangiers -- the city where Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch. The incident in the film in which Hank and Martin appropriate Bill's writing and have it published closely approximates the real-life circumstances of the novel's publication, although it was Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac who helped out the real-life Burroughs. The William Tell incident that kills Bill's wife is also drawn from the author's real life. "William Lee" is both Burroughs' literary stand-in and the name under which he published his first autobiographical novel Junky. Ian Holm, who plays Joan Frost's husband, Tom, would appear in Cronenberg's similarly experimental eXistenZ several years later. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Peter Weller
    Peter Weller - William Lee
  • Judy Davis
    Judy Davis - Joan Frost/Joan Lee
  • Ian Holm
    Ian Holm - Tom Frost
  • Julian Sands
    Julian Sands - Yves Cloquet
  • Roy Scheider
    Roy Scheider - Dr. Benway

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