on December 11, 2011
My first contact with Mike Leigh's film Naked came with a series of soundbites that DJ's at the University of Maryland's college radio station had sampled and turned into station ID's. These included several monologues by David Thewlis' frustrated and angry protagonist, Johnny, including his rants about the coming apocalypse. This prompted me to seek Naked out on VHS, and I was both troubled and fascinated by Leigh's film.
Nearly twenty years later, Criterion has released naked on Blu-Ray, for the first time giving me the chance to see the film as it was intended. I'm struck by the composition and stark cinematography -- both of which hold up remarkably well, whereas many other films from the 1990's do not. And although the film documents a very specific time at the turn of the century in economically-depressed post-Thatcher England, it is still very relavent today.
Naked centers around Johnny, a young man from Manchester fleeing the repercussions of an act of brutality that occurs within seconds of the film's opening. He arrives in London, where he calls on his ex-girlfriend and her flatmate, developing a physical relationship with one as he longs for a romantic relationship with the other.
We then follow Johnny through the next forty-eight hours of his life, drifting through nighttime London and disrupting the lives of the various people he encounters until he inevitably returns to his ex-girlfriend's flat. Johnny's odyssey is at once satirical, tragic and so unflinchingly brutal that it becomes difficult to watch.
There is also a parallel storyline involving the owner of the flat, an affluent sociopath named Jeremy who is perhaps one step away from American Psycho's Patrick Bateman. Both Johnny and Jeremy are brutal to the women they meet, but are fundamentally different. Although the consequences of their behavior on the women they encounter is the same, their motivations are diametrically opposed. Without Jeremy, it would be impossible for the audience to have any compassion for Johnny.
Much has been made of Naked's misogyny, but I think it's important to understand the distinction between documenting misogyny and condoning it. Naked doesn't justify such behavior, but lays it bare for the audience to see. It may not be pleasant, but it's a part of human life that should be examined and discussed.
The film is in the middle in terms of getting the "Criterion treatment" -- besides offering up a solid HD transfer, it includes an interview with American director Neil Labute (In the Company of Men) about the film, who has also been charged with misogyny for his own cinematic studies of the dark side of masculinity, a thirty minute interview with Leigh recorded for the BBC, a commentary track featuring the director and some of the actors, and the original theatrical trailer (which makes Naked look like a relationship comedy). The extras all help to enlighten Leigh's motivations for making the film, but lack the "film school in a box" quality of other Criterion releases.
If you're coming to Naked as a fan of Leigh's other films, particularly those centered around family dynamics, I think you should be aware that this film is very different from his other work. It dispenses with his usual ensembles and almost solely focuses on a single character. However, if you're interesting into delving into the psyche of one angry and embittered young man and seeing how he effects the people around him, then Naked is definitely worth your time.
Having seen this movie upon its release in 1993, I remember seeing a tough, brutal little picture with a great leading performance by David Thewlis. I didn't actually remember liking it, however. Thirteen years later, I've had the pleasure of revisiting Mike Leigh's "Naked" in its Criterion issue and five years hence--it's back in Blu-ray. And being older and more savvy, I've discovered the film as if it were my first time viewing it. And what a lot of pleasures there are to be had in "Naked."
First, David Thewlis is brilliant! The ferocity of his performance captivated audiences around the world and won him Cannes and other acting honors, but no Oscar nomination. I would contend that if this movie were released now, with Mike Leigh and David Thewlis better known and respected, the outcome would have been much different. All the performers bring a realness to the film that make it so effective, but it is Thewlis' show.
Thewlis' Johnny is a despicable human being. He is rude, violent, petulant, unwashed, selfish, and totally at odds with anything even resembling humanity. He proceeds to make his way through London meeting up with various characters each more loathsome or desperate then the last. It is a bleak portrait, at best. Every woman, inexplicably, is drawn to Johnny. I mean--what a catch, huh? Some might label the film misogynistic, and its treatment of women isn't glamorous--but I'd contend that the men are all ogres as well which helps balance things out.
So why is this movie great? Sounds like a nasty piece of work (and it is). But aside from the blistering performances, the film is scathingly and brutally funny. The impeccably literate script actually has something to say about the modern world, about philosophy, about the human condition. It's a tremendously smart black comedy. And Johnny becomes one of the most well-spoken and funny antiheroes in modern movie history. It's refreshing for a movie that is so brutal and tough to be so intelligent as well. And for all you despise about Johnny, there will be a grudging respect too. You understand why people are drawn to him.
I've thought about this film many times since I rewatched it last week, and now I've felt compelled to add my two cents here. Check it out. A nasty masterpiece. KGHarris, 10/06.
Note: Here are the Blu-Ray details. All special features listed are included on the original Criterion edition DVD--nothing new has been added in terms of content for this release.
Restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Mike Leigh, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
Audio commentary by Leigh and actors David Thewlis and Katrin Cartlidge
Exclusive video interview with director Neil LaBute
An episode of the BBC program The Art Zone in which author Will Self interviews Leigh
The Short and Curlies, a short comedy from 1982 directed by Leigh and starring Thewlis, with audio commentary by Leigh
Original theatrical trailer
PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film critics Derek Malcolm and Amy Taubin
on June 17, 2014
Mike Leigh's 1993 film NAKED is a drama on sexual relations -- how men hurt women, how some women accept that hurt out of low self-esteem and a desire to be wanted or supported. It is distinguished by its remarkably lifelike characters. Most of the film was worked out in improvisations for several months before shooting began. Leigh wanted his actors to create elaborate back stories for their characters, fully living inside of them so that when the cameras started rolling they would be completely convincing.
As the film opens, Johnny (David Thewlis) has to flee Manchester after a sexual encounter with a married woman turns into rape and she threatens to set her husband after him. Stealing a car, he heads to London to crash at his ex-girlfriend Louise (Lesley Sharp), gets involved with her flatmate Sophie (Katrin Cartlidge), and spends a couple of nights homeless in London. Interspliced with this are scenes of Jeremy, a rich real estate broker whose sexual conquests serve as an upper-class counterpart to Johnny's own. Naturally the viewer is led to wonder what will happen when these two men meet.
Something is wrong with Johnny, he answers anything said to him with a rambling torrent of words, a logorrhea that is a form of intellectual bullying; this deeply wounded man seems to feel the best defense against the cruelties of the world is a good offense. Only 27, Johnny is so wasted that he is taken for much older. In this, Thewlis's performance is one of the masterful screen portrayals of an eccentric or mentally ill person, like Dustin Hoffmann in RAIN MAN or Peter Sellers in BEING THERE.
But all of the characters here are memorable, and my thoughts have often gone back to them in the time since I saw this film. I do have reservations about the plot, inasmuch as the last scenes of the film (which were decided only late in the filmmaking process) too suddenly change the tone and may seem anticlimactic. Nonetheless, I would recommend this film and believe it a great one in spite of its undeniable flaws.
The Criterion Collection edition of this film is ample. The audio commentary track features Leigh, Thewlis, Cartlidge (and so must have been recorded before Cartlidge's death in 2002), and gives many details of the back stories that Leigh had his actors create. There's Leigh's 1987 short film "The Short and Curlies", where Thewlis plays a nerdy young man whose continual repartee might be seen as a prototype for Johnny.
A less worthwhile extra is an interview with film critic Neil LaBute, which is not especially interesting or informative. There is also the godawful American trailer, with its American advertising voice actor, cheery music that never appears in the film, and a series of one-line bits of dialogue that make the film seem like a conventional comedy.
on August 22, 2012
Naked is not a pleasant experience. There is much to enjoy about it, but the mood and plot are incredibly downbeat. That being said, there is a lot to appreciate here. David Thewlis is absolutely marvelous in the lead role. He is funny and charming, but at the same time violent and alienating. A terrific anti-hero. The score is wonderful, and the other cast members are very good.
The film looks and sounds quite good, which is expected from Criterion. The extras could have been a bit better, but what we get is good.
Overall, however, I cannot wholly recommend Naked. Not as a blind buy. If you are already a fan, the presentation is very good. If you've never seen it, I strongly recommend renting it first.
on July 7, 2013
From an AV stand point, this disc presents a beautiful version of the film. Not overly digital, with a fine level of film grain preserved.
As for the film itself. Better people then me have extolled its virtues. Suffice to say. Get it.
on December 22, 2011
Mike Leigh is toying with sexual politics in this bleak film. I won't say that rape is "glorified" because it's often consensual encounters that suddenly become violent. That may make feminists even more angry...there's little definition of just what degree of violation occured and whether the loser women expected many sexual boundaries. Both men seemed likely to wind up dead or in prison by age 40. One is quite terrifying while the other (main character)is merely misguided. No happy endings here.
on November 3, 2013
Say what you want to about the poorly written female characters and the overly dark material.
The real gem here is the performance of David Thewlis. In particular, the dialogue with the night security guard provides some of the most engaging back and forth cinema has to offer.
I don't really have an in-depth review to offer. I just wanted to contribute a 5-star rating while singing the praises of David Thewlis. Easily a career best performance.
on November 11, 2015
If you want a truly bizarre and raw movie that exemplifies the best of the 1990s angst, this is it. If you enjoyed Blue Velvet, you'll like Naked.
on February 15, 2015
Really good :)