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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 2.0 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary featuring Cronenberg and actor Peter Weller
  • Naked Making Lunch, a 1992 documentary by Chris Rodley about the making of the film
  • Special effects gallery, featuring artwork and photos alongside an essay by film writer 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

Naked Lunch

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: David Cronenberg
Starring: Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Julian Sands, Roy Scheider
1991 | 115 Minutes | Licensor: 20th Century Fox

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #220
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: April 9, 2013
Review Date: April 9, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

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 (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

Forum members rate this film 6/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Criterion ports their two-disc DVD edition of David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch over to Blu-ray, presenting the film in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on a dual-layer disc. This transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.

The same master used for the DVD appears to have been used here. It would usually be disappointing when a new Blu-ray edition uses a ten-year-old high-definition transfer but it’s certainly held up well and definitely not an issue here. Coming from a 35mm interpositive the transfer presents a remarkable amount of detail in every shot. Edges are clearly defined, definition is excellent, film grain is beautifully rendered, and there isn’t a noticeable artifact throughout, looking perfectly clean and natural as a whole.

Despite the rather bland colour scheme (brown is just about the only colour present) they still manage to pop. Black levels are okay, with some mild crushing in darker areas at times. Damage has been just about completely removed, with only a few minor knicks remaining. In all it’s an absolute stunner of a transfer, and it does noticeably improve over the already impressive DVD presentation.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The mix sounds about the same but the DTS-HD MA 2.0 surround presentation does deliver a noticeably sharper experience. The surrounds are quite active in presenting various background effects that are clear and distinct, and the jazzy score beautifully makes itself around the environment. Overall sound quality is crisper and more natural with rich, intelligible dialogue and no distortion or noise present.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion manages to move everything over from their 2-disc DVD edition starting with an audio commentary featuring Peter Weller and David Cronenberg. Similar to most early group commentaries from Criterion this one finds the two recorded separately. Cronenberg as usual is very informative on his style, creative choices and is not afraid to explain what is going on, making sense of what is from what book by Burroughs and what is based on Burroughs’ life. Weller also does the same, talking a lot about Burroughs, the novel, and drug addiction, also offering his own thoughts on the meaning of the film. I've never heard Weller on a commentary track before and I'm pleased to say he is a good speaker. After listening to it initially I will say it gave me a better understanding of the film and what Cronenberg was going for. Worth listening to for fans or for those just thoroughly confused by the film.

The remaining supplements are found under the “Supplements” menu. The big one would be the making-of documentary called Naked Making Lunch, which is a 48-minute documentary that appeared on British television. This is easily the best supplement on the disc as it goes fairly in-depth into the making of the film, gathering interviews with the participants, Cronenberg getting the most time, and looking somewhat at the effects, as well as Burroughs' life and the novel Naked Lunch. Everyone clearly states over and over again how impossible it would be to truly adapt the novel (Cronenberg says matter-of-factly a true translation would cost 500-million dollars and be banned in every country in the world) so the film does veer, but with the approval of Burroughs of course (who did have problems with the reference to him shooting his wife, but eventually accepted it). For those that were at a loss as to what was going on in the film this doc, along with the commentary, will provide some help.

The remaining supplements are a little disappointing, sticking mostly to simple text notes and galleries (though Criterion at least ported these all over, something they don’t always do when upgrading DVD text features to Blu-ray.) Special Effects Gallery provides text, still shots, photos, drawings, and storyboards for various effects throughout the production, including the mugwumps, the various typewriters and other creature effects. It's presented as a gallery that you simply navigate through using your remote.

Film and Design Sketch Gallery presents another stills gallery presenting publicity shots, behind-the-scene photos, sketches, and more. The DVD actually divided this into sections but the Blu-ray presents them all as one gallery.

Criterion then presents a marketing section that presents Fox's marketing plan, which the introductory text states Cronenberg was very impressed with. Here you will find a theatrical trailer (very odd for a major studio to release), 2 TV spots and a 5-minute featurette which lasts 5-minutes. You will also find a B-Roll Montage, which is roughly 3-minutes worth of behind-the-scenes material.

The second best supplement would have to be William S. Burroughs reading segments from his novel. Recorded for an audio book in 1995, there is over an hour worth of stuff here, including the author's "Atrophied Preface". I have never read the book (though have been planning on it for a very long time) so having this is a bit of a treat.

And finally there is a gallery of Photos of William S. Burroughs by Allen Ginsberg. Included are Ginsberg's notes explaining each photo and there is a good sized collection. A rather thoughtful and unique inclusion on Criterion’s part.

Criterion has also included a large 39-page booklet (technically longer than the DVD’s but that has more to do with the fact the booklet is not as tall because it needs to fit the shorter Blu-ray case) that includes essays on the film, Burroughs, Cronenberg and even one by Burroughs himself on Cronenberg.

It still feels a little light on features, a bit of a surprise considering the film and the fact the release could have featured more on Burroughs, like how Criterion included a lot of material on Hunter S. Thompson for their Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas release. But the material on here does make this rather difficult and truly surreal film a little easier to digest.

7/10

CLOSING

The edition, though slightly disappointing on extras, does manage to help one better understand or even appreciate the film, though there’s no significant improvement over the DVD in this department. But the audio and video both offer noticeable improvements. For those fond of the film and/or looking to upgrade this release comes with a very high recommendation.


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