Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Canada/United Kingdom/Japan, 1991. Recorded Picture Company, Téléfilm Canada, Ontario Film Development Corporation, Film Trustees Ltd., Pierson, Heldring & Pierson N.V., Nippon Film Development and Finance. Screenplay by David Cronenberg, based on the novel by William S. Burroughs. Cinematography by Peter Suschitzky. Produced by Jeremy Thomas. Music by Ornette Coleman, Howard Shore. Production Design by Carol Spier. Costume Design by Denise Cronenberg. Film Editing by Ronald Sanders.
David Cronenberg freely adapts the novel by William S. Burroughs, taking his prose and incorporating aspects of Burroughs’ own biography as the guide for its interpretation. Peter Weller plays a blocked writer whose wife (Judy Davis) convinces him that the bug spray he uses in his day job is terrific for getting high. After accidentally shooting her in a drug-induced stupor (a la Burroughs and his wife Joan Vollmer in real life), Weller takes off to Morocco and gets involved with a number of shady characters and a few talking typewriters, the lines of reality blurring for both him and the audience as the substances take over his mind. Weller and Davis are terrific, with other cast members playing representations of Burroughs’ contemporaries (Kerouac, Ginsberg, Bowles, etc). The film’s obsessive weirdness will put some audiences off and be seen as pretentious, as Cronenberg has very dry fun with the material and the film has little joy in its indulgences, but the pace is smooth and the screenplay is perfectly polished.
The Criterion Collection: #220