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Naked (Criterion Collection)

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One of the essential films of the 1990s, Mike Leigh’s brilliant and controversial Naked stars David Thewlis as Johnny, a charming, eloquent, and relentlessly vicious drifter in London. Rejecting all those who would care for him, the volcanic Johnny hurls himself into a nocturnal odyssey through the city, colliding with a succession of the desperate and the dispossessed and scorching everyone in his path. With a virtuoso script and raw performances by Thewlis and costars Katrin Cartlidge and Lesley Sharp, Leigh’s panorama of England’s crumbling underbelly is a showcase of black comedy and doomsday prophecy, and was the winner of the best director and actor prizes at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 49 reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Brutality And Brilliance--A Nasty "Naked" Treat Oct. 7 2006
By K. Harris - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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 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's show.

Thewlis's 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 it's 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.
60 of 73 people found the following review helpful
"Are you with me?" Sept. 23 2005
By Clare Quilty - Published on
Format: DVD
I first saw this in a little run-down art house theater. The auditorium was empty except for an old woman and two strange men who, lured by the title and the fishnet stockings on the original poster, had obviously come expecting a different kind of movie than the one they got. There were times during the screening when I almost felt as if the theater had become part of the movie.

This is a film that's fascinating, but, damn, it's a bit of a ride. I'm frequently catching it late at night, on IFC, and even just a few moments almost always wear me out -- definitely a movie that brings to your attention when you need to go to bed. I appreciate "Naked," as a filmic experience, and it is indeed an incredible one, but I have to wonder if this is what movies are supposed to do.

Still, it does what it does and what it does is unlike anything else you could want to find.

David Thewlis may have made a mistake starring in this because he is so brilliant, so engaging, so horrifying, so smart, so black that to this day, I still have a hard time seeing him as any other character -- whether he's in "Gangster #1" or "The Prisoner of Azkaban." It's great work. He'll make you laugh, he'll make you cry, he'll make you carsick.

I'd also like to nominate the scene between Johnny and the security guard -- their discussion of time, and space, and barcodes and apocalypse and Dadaist nuns -- to be elected to the office of the great scenes of the 90s, and to take a place on the larger list of the great cinematic moments altogether.
37 of 45 people found the following review helpful
By Gerard Kennelly - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Johnny is a homeless, angry young man who can speak at great length and with GREAT eloquence on an incredibly wide variety of topics. He is smarter than basically anyone he meets or ever will meet but he has no job, no place to live and has no interest in having either. He arrives in London and sets out on an odyssey through the night to spread his philosophy on life to anyone who will listen. Doesn't sound like much of a film huh? Make no mistake this is one of the best films EVER made and contains a performance that can match De Niro, Hoffman or Brando any day. David Thewlis won best actor at cannes for his genuinely incredible performance in this masterpiece, and it's easy to see why. The raw power that he brings to this role has to be seen to be believed. Some people expressed surprise at his lack of an academy award nomination. Let's be honest about it. The performances that stay with you after the credits roll are too good for oscars. Day-Lewis in Gangs Of New York,Samuel L. Jackson in Jungle Fever, Campbell Scott in Roger Dodger, Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, Newman in Hud and most of all David Thewlis for this film. Ignore the hype about the violence in this film. Robert De Niro played a violent person in Raging Bull and what did he get? A golden globe AND the oscar. David Thewlis lost because he played this role with unblinking conviction. De Niro was sexually violent in CAPE FEAR and he was nominated at the academy awards. Thewlis and De Niro both took the method approach to these roles, so why did the academy overlook Thewlis? If this film didn't win the best actor and best director awards at Cannes I seriously think that it would be virtually unknown. Now that Thewlis and director Mike Leigh are back in the public eye. Thewlis in KINGDOM OF HEAVEN and Leigh with his harrowing VERA DRAKE, it is a perfect time for a new audience to discover NAKED and see it for what it is a masterpiece. Like always the best films are sadly unavailable on dvd. This film is one of those rare times when I'd even settle for an extras free disc. If it wasn't for criterion, modern masterpieces like NAKED would come out on dvd with nothing but a trailer. There are two reasons why NAKED didn't win the oscars for best actor,film or screenplay: money and politics. This film wasn't marketable or politically correct. To see an actor like Thewlis wasted in rubbish films like Dragonheart is ridiculous. You would think that an awards academy who gave Sean Penn an oscar for his performance in Mystic River where he played an ultimately vicious and violent character and Anthony Hopkins who played one of the most evil characters of recent memory in The Silence Of The Lambs would at least give THewlis a nomination. Thewlis gives one of the best performances in the history of cinema and regardless of what the academy thought of the film Thewlis has created a character that will never be forgotten. At the end of the day a film like NAKED can't be measured by the box office or the amount of awards that it wins but by it's impact on a visceral level.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant Character Study in Exceptional Film by Mike Leigh... Oct. 9 2005
By Swederunner - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Mike Leigh generates the ideas for his films through intense reflections on an original idea that interests him. Through his cerebral process and in corporation with the cast, he fleshes out the characters and the story around the conceptual idea, which brings both filmmaker and cast together into an enlightening experience. Before shooting the film, both Leigh and the cast can identify themselves with the characters to the very essence of their being, which offers a deeper and more meaningful character. Thus, Leigh centers most of his film on himself, as the idea originates within him. This is also the case with Naked.

The title that Leigh applied to his 1993 cerebral mesh of cinematic cynicism does tangibly imply the notion of self-exposure. Even though it might, and does, suggest a physical display of the human anatomy, the title, more accurately, provides an allusion towards the complete revelation of the character, Johnny (David Thewlis), in the film. Naked offers an absolute exposure of Johnny's thoughts, values, and other accumulated information both assimilated and adapted throughout a lifetime. Nothing is too sacred, or secret, in Leigh's film, which viciously displays Johnny's contempt for society as a whole. The contemptuous mood of the film filters through Johnny's personal confessions with strangers and outsiders, which seemingly rests within the highly intelligent, but mutilated mind of Johnny. In a sense, this confessional approach of telling the tale of Johnny, functions almost like a personal purging of Leigh's own implacable characteristics.

A dark and secluded alley strikes the audience's retina in the initial scene. The sporadic light in the alley exposes some of the bare red brick and a little of the dirty cement underneath. The camera shakily and swiftly advances through the narrow alleyway accompanied by the intensifying sound of carnal lust. A rapid succession of frames moves the audience closer to a man and a woman that, at first, seem to express their shameless desires for one another, when suddenly the man turns violent and grabs the woman's throat and wrist. He continues his repeated hip thrusting motion while the woman begins to whimper and begs him to stop. Abruptly, the man ceases his defilement of the woman, which gives the woman an opportunity to escape. This man is Johnny.

From the brief, yet disturbing opening, the audience quickly discovers the dark side of Johnny, as he truly becomes the antihero. Most viewers will deem Johnny after his actions, as a spineless beast without moral fiber that deserves the worst possible punishment. This is a notion that Johnny seems to be highly aware of, as he consequently steals a car and escapes the possible repercussions of social shame and the possibility of severe punishment. However, what trigged Johnny to commit this vile act nourishes the curiosity, as he does have a strong sense of what is right and wrong.

The lengthy cinematic rationalization of Johnny begins when he seeks refuge in London, where an old girlfriend becomes his last opportunity for temporary sanctuary. Antagonistically, Johnny thrusts his hostile and negatively skewed perspective of life on all that enter his existence such as the ex-girlfriend, Louis (Lesley Sharp), her roommate (Katrin Cartlidge), Brian the Nightwatchman (Peter Wight), a Scot with a severe tick problem (Ewen Bremner), and the sadistically misogynic Jeremy (Greg Cruttwell). Everything from childhood trauma with his mother's sinful occupation to religious debates eventually leads into existentialism in regards to predetermined existence exposed by Nostradamus to the big bang theory. Eloquent criticism oozes out of Johnny's spiteful mouth with intentional scornfulness that forms cerebral depositions in regards to the misery humanity faces. All of these lengthy viewpoints should be revered and cherished, as Johnny emerges with a conviction similar to Achilles' faith in his own invulnerability. It gets to the point where Johnny's ridicule of the society becomes intriguingly entertaining while his supreme ego crushes all verbal opposition with articulate and depressing gibberish.

Within the strong conviction of his own intelligence an immediate weakness surfaces in Johnny, as he always sees the glass as half full. One of his strongest and self-supporting comments, " might already have had the happiest moment in your whole life and all you got to look forward to is sickness and purgatory." In essence, Johnny's depressing cognitive skills seem to prevent himself from climbing out of the deepest of intellectual pits, as he always pushes himself down with his own negative perspectives while always assimilating newly acquired information to his already pessimistic life philosophy. Johnny is that kind of person that brings darkness and sickness into the existence, which so many attempt to escape with self-help books and expensive shrinks. However, Leigh seems to be painfully aware of this notion, as he exuberantly dives into this project to pull out something extremely dark within himself by exorcizing his own cerebral demons by fully exposing himself.

Naked opens with a despicable scene, an event that most could never see themselves accomplishing. Through this scene, Leigh captures self-hatred through Johnny's existence in darkness, shadows, and an environment from which people strive to escape. Nonetheless, Johnny seeks out these depressive times and places both physically and cerebrally, which the script and mise-en-scene so powerfully displays. David Thewlis' performance is straight-out spectacular, as he embodies physically, intellectually, and spiritually the archetype for gloominess. It is a performance that went under the Oscars radar most likely due to its negative content, but nonetheless, Thewlis mesmerizes, antagonizes, and amuses any viewer in any continent. Lastly, Naked provides a cinematic canvas upon which Leigh freely reveals the darker parts of personal self-reflection, which offers humanity a chance through understanding and deeper contemplation beyond the mere glumness of existence.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Portrait of the Misogynist as a Young Man Dec 11 2011
By Jeff the Zombie - Published on
Format: Blu-ray
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.