William S. Burroughs’ 1959 novel Naked Lunch must have seemed an ideal text to director David Cronenberg (The Fly, Dead Ringers). The filmmaker’s obsession with mutant insects and treacherous body parts finds obvious corollaries in Burroughs’ hallucinations about giant cockroaches doubling as typewriters in the paranoid fictional world of Interzone. But despite several wild and funny visual conceits, Cronenberg was unable to find a filmic equivalent for Burroughs’ glimmering, erupting prose. Drawing on the novelist’s life (Burroughs accidentally shot his wife to death while playing William Tell and later moved to Morocco) as well as his fiction, Cronenberg re-creates Interzone as a Morocco of the mind, occupied by an insidious couple based on writers Paul and Jane Bowles. Peter Weller (RoboCop) is appropriately tight-lipped as the hallucinating novelist who gets hooked on bug powder, and Judy Davis (Barton Fink) is memorably wan in two roles. Yet the film is oddly staid, a quality accentuated by the small screen. B

Naked Lunch
  • Movie
  • 115 minutes