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This David Cronenberg masterpiece (1991) breaks every rule in adapting a literary classic—maybe “On Naked Lunch” would be a more accurate title—but justifies every transgression with its artistry and audacity. Adapted not only from William S. Burroughs's free-form novel but also from several other Burroughs works, this film pares away all the social satire and everything that might qualify as celebration of gay sex, yielding a complex and highly subjective portrait of Burroughs himself (expertly played by Peter Weller) as a tortured sensibility in flight from his own femininity, proceeding zombielike through an echo chamber of projections (insects, drugs, typewriters) and repudiations. According to the densely compacted metaphors that compose this dreamlike movie, writing equals drugs equals sex, and the pseudonymous William Lee, as politically incorrect as Burroughs himself, repeatedly disavows his involvement in all three. With Judy Davis and Ian Holm. R, 115 min.

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