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So how do I justify it? I could witter on about the brilliance of David Thewlis' performance, the excellent support cast, the devastatingly witty dialogue and Leigh's assured direction until the cows came home, but this still wouldn't totally do it. I can't say a lot about the plot because, well, there isn't a great deal of plot to speak of. So what is it?
I'll tell you what it is: it's the honesty of it. The brutal, searing, sickening honesty. Here is a film unafraid to hold a mirror up to the dark, venal, destructive underbelly of our society - a film that portrays relentlessly and unflinchingly a side of our character which we'd prefer to simply sweep under the carpet. It takes everything that is immoral, degenerate and depraved in modern society and smears it all over the screen in a grubby orgy of loathing. It is not simply a movie with teeth but one with rabid, venomous, acid-tipped fangs, tearing and gnashing at our pompous ideas about our own natures.
There are many movies which are fantastically enjoyable and make for a sterling night out with friends and family. This is not one of them. Naked is disturbing, unpleasant, frightening and utterly bleak. It is also quite brilliant.
This is one of the hardest films I have ever had to review. Topics such as urban alienation, career-choice unemployment, leeching, homelessness, drug taking and sexual violence would normally send me running for cover; but what we have here is so well constructed and so skilfully acted that it transcends it own headline topics.
This is a classic case of car-wreck film making: You don't praise or celebrate much, yet it is deeply fascinating and even hypnotic. People are tap dancing on the edge of a metaphorical cliff - some are there of there of their own free will.
Director Mike Leigh's semi-improvisational style doesn't always work, but here it really delivers something unique. You feel that you are watching real life even though too much happens in too short a time period for that to be the case.
This is a wandering odyssey film and features a central performance - by David Thewlis - that ranks along the best ever witnessed in cinema. How the Oscar people could have (totally) turned their back on a performance as a good as this puzzles; although the film and actor won prizes in Cannes and New York.
This is the first film I have ever seen that takes on sexual coercion in a head on fashion. People that have put themselves in a chemical or social situation where someone has something over them. The greasy upper crust landlord (Greg Cruttwell) might seem over-the-top to many but I know a few people actually like that!
(For the record his actions would be deemed illegal in real life - if you have seen the film.)
What happens to the on-screen people the day after this film ends? Has anything really changed? For Johnny - our central anti-hero - it will be just another day to duck and dive, avoid all work and wind people up using his extensive back reading.
This film investigates the existential angst as portrayed by the protagonist Johnny of what is to survive; the main character gradually reveals himself before us stripped of pretence and standing "naked" . Johnny's diatribes tinged with apocalyptic tones upon the nature of the universe and beyond are breath taking. Sex and violence under pin the narrative of this film, and with Jonny adhering to no personal boundaries he embarks upon a journey that takes the viewer upon an uneasy and ultimately rewarding journey .
The film is important as it shows the true power of the cinematic medium , and as a cultural reference to the pap produced by Hollywood; exposing the neutered offerings mainstream cinema is plagued with. This film shows Mike Leigh as a master of his art, expressed by the unique performances he elicits from his cast.
This work of genius will be stumbled across in years to come and be celebrated by later generations for its language, its mood, and its effect which makes us engage in our very existence. A true testament to a magnificent achievement.
David Thewlis is nothing short of genius as the aimless Johnny, a combustible combination of brilliance and depression, who's mere presence in anyone's purview contaminates and destroys with the effectiveness of Round-Up.
Mesmerizing and fast-paced, there is no shortage of excellence in the smaller plots and characters: Greg Cruttwell is spectacular as the pompous, nouveau-riche Jeremy, and the two female leads, Leslie Sharp and Katrin Cartlidge provide well balanced juxtaposition as two very different femmes damaged.
Not for the faint of heart, Naked will test one's own philosophy, and leave you stripped bare.
For years, I had fantasized about becoming a writer / director, and actually put forth some appreciable effort to that end. This film, Mike Leigh's incomparable, unprecedented masterwork, cured me of that fantasy. He said, and did, in two hours, all that I could have hoped to achieve in an entire career, and it became gapingly obvious to me that I had no business in this medium.
There is no "story" here, except that of the distilled essence of the hopeless pre-Millenial Western man, robbed of the promised nuclear annihilation he had always consciously feared, but subconsciously hoped for, if only to put the world out of its misery. The naked and the lost, the wandering spectre of the sentient living dead, and the pitiful yet mercifully ignorant companions that cross his path.
I like American Existential Anti-Heroes. I wasn't really prepared to confront an English Existential Anti-Hero. Wow, what a different take on a similar stimulus.
This film is a monument to gritty realism, without being self-conscious about it. You can taste this movie. But you never feel like it was faked or forced. The camera work and the lighting never get in the way. I usually notice such things, and here it was invisible and completely immersive. David Thewlis throws every bit of his body into this movie. Even the great closing credit scene.
I would be remiss if I didn't point out the fantastic black humor, especially since some people said it wasn't funny! Sophie wails in the most sustained way I have ever seen in drama. And it's hysterical, even as you're hurting with her. The frantic Scottish kid made me rewind again and again. While I agree that the "landlord" character could have been over the top, his reaction to Johnny flailing on the floor made me laugh out loud. The two characters are really barely distinguishable but that one is a dandy and the other has a fondness for the gutter. As the poster-hanger beats the crap out of our anti-hero you can't help but laugh. And then you nod along as Louise tells him he had it coming in her terrific and constant deadpan (with an occasional suggestion of a smile).
As our protagonist points out, in the end, all the books, and all the learning, and all the discussion, still don't help you understand the point of the cruel joke of life. Yes, it's an old dorm-room discussion that freshman are still having for the 1st time. But that doesn't make the question and the questioning any less desperate. It is human to cry out in pain, even when it's self-inflicted. The references to making a choice for self-destruction are throughout the dialogue, but not so much so that they hit you in the head.
Naked is depressing and euphoric at the same time. Yes it's often "awful", but how can you not cheer for someone who loves life and is trying his hardest to fully engage it? And not one character (or question) gets a pat Hollywood ending or moral -- woo-hoo!
This movie is why people can call film a legitimate art form. It provokes thought, it is drama, and it is beautiful. It thrills me.
Someone asked if the dialogue was improvised. According to IFC, Mike Leigh rehearsed with the cast for 11 weeks before writing the script, which then came to only 25 pages.
In this, Leigh's toughest, most uncompromising work for cinema, Thewlis turns in a stunningly uningratiating performance. He utterly immerses himself in the role of Johnny, an articulate, disenfranchised angry young man, who's escaped Manchester after a bit of rough outdoor sex turns into something a lot like rape.
Johnny flees to London to hook up with an old girlfriend Louise (Sharp). While wandering around the city he gives free rein to his unfocused rage and indulges in some further degrading sexual encounters, notably with the dippy and compliant Sophie (Cartlidge).
This is brilliant stuff, but hard to stomach. Once again Leigh proves what a big problem he has with London's bourgeoisie, particularly with his portrayal of the smooth, sexually exploitative Jeremy (Cruttwell).
Leigh gives us so little to cling to here. There is barely a symphathetic character aside from security guard Brian (Wright), who dreams of escaping to Ireland. So the viewer is stuck with the edgy autodidact Johnny. It's an immensely powerful film about self-loathing and urban alienation, but, Thewlis' remarkable performanace notwithstading, staying the two hour distance is asking for a lot, even from die-hard Leigh fans.
That statement is pretty true Naked is as bleak and unforgiving as they come. There are no good guys or any possible chances for redemption. Whenever a glimmer of hope appears during the film, it's obliterated within mere moments. The characters don't undergo any significant changes throughout the film. The film ends in pretty much the same way it begins, probably doomed to repetition until the end of the world. If you sit down to watch this, all I can say is "be prepared". Know what you're getting into.
Although the unforgettable feel of the film could be attributed to its verité style (filmed on the dodgy side of London with very rough-looking film), it could be better attributed to the protagonist himself. David Thewlis gives what's probably his best performance as Johnny, a man with few strengths and countless flaws. His eloquent monologues are roughly balanced by his harsh treatment of others. Johnny has very little respect for anyone or anything and it shows as he inflicts pain (physical or emotional, it doesn't matter to him) on everybody that crosses his path.
As bad as he is, however, he's oddly sympathetic in a way (especially when compared to a landlord who's as callous and sociopathic as he is, possibly more so). In a way, I could actually relate to Johnny (and not just because I have the same coat). He knows how bad he can be and acts accordingly, only because he doesn't believe in anything else or changing his ways. He just exists from day to day, just like any other human being. That's what makes Johnny so compelling he really is only human. When karma finally catches up to him late in the film, we aren't glad to see him suffer. Johnny is the best kind of character, full of nuance that will make different people love him and hate him for the same reasons.
Even though Naked depends heavily on Johnny's presence, he is not the be-all and end-all of the film. The supporting characters are exceptional the stand-out roles being Johnny's ex and her flatmate. Watching them try and deal with the sudden arrival of both Johnny and (later on) the landlord is in itself one very compelling subplot. A runner-up would be the security guard on his graveyard shift who engages in a series of debates with Johnny about time, life, evolution and the inevitable Apocalypse.
Needless to say, Naked was one hell of a film to watch. It makes me wonder exactly how I should rate it, if I should rate it. It's not really one of those movies where you just say "Oh yeah, very good, very moving, 4 stars." You're more likely to watch it and afterwards not say anything, just think about it. Those are the exceptional films, and Naked is definitely that a dark, pessimistic insight into the mind of a human being who treads the fine line between self-destruction and utter dissatisfaction.
Johnny colludes with no one and belongs to nowhere. He evokes no sympathy but is also not unlikeable. He is always unwashed, unshaven and untidy Only 27, he is also in the process of physical degeneration. But Johnny is no uncouth yob or waster, but a firestorm of intellect driven by the Bible and the prophecies of Nostradamus. Between scrounged bites of food, this is his existence.
Johnny arrives on the doorstep of the flat of his former lover Louise (Lesley Sharp) and her doped up friend Sophie (Katrin Cartlidge). Johnny and Sophie share a cigarette, a joint and then have brutal sex on the sofa. Johnny leaves the flat and wanders through the night, first encountering two homeless Scots, then Brian (Peter Wright), a lonely security guard guarding an empty office block. Together the two men wander through the building in a spellbinding set piece of that is dazzlingly delivered by Thewlis at breakneck speed as he rants about the inevitable apocalypse in 1999 and how humanity will evolve from it's present state: "The end of the world is nigh, Bri"
Johnny is deeper and more talkative than anyone else. He subsequently encounters a drunken prostitute and a dim girl (Gina McKee). He is then twice beaten up: once in an alley by youths and once by a fly poster. Beaten and bleeding, he returns to Louise's flat only to discover Jeremy (Greg Cutwell) has taken up residence. He is the Yuppie landlord, something in the city and an excruciating caricature. Jeremy is a habitual misogynist, first seen asking a masseur if women enjoy being raped. He also rapes Sophie, making her wear a nurse's uniform in the process.
At the flat, Johnny has an epileptic fit and regresses back to his abused childhood. Louise threatens to castrate Jeremy with a knife, and has a reconciliation with Johnny. But Johnny does not hang around and is last seen limping off at great speed with £290 of Jeremy's money (which had paid for Sophie's pleasure) in his pocket.
'Naked' is visually and verbally about the abuse of women and a general overview of the intellectual themes of the late 20th century. Women in the film exist mostly to be put upon, whilst Johnny may look like the lowest of the lie, he rises above the rabble with a profound sense of the bigger picture. When Louise asks where he came from, he responds with a rapid fire description of the Big Bang theory. When she asks if he's bored, he then delivers a powerful speech about the problem with people is that they're always so bored - they've had the universe, nature and the living body explained to them and they're bored with it, so what they want now is just cheap thrills and plenty of them.
I kept wondering if the film were made today what would be the targets of Johnny's intellect? Celebrity culture, the war on terror, political spin, reality TV? The film is certainly over long and two episodes (the drunken prostitute and the girl in the café) could have been jettisoned without loosing anything. Thewlis, however, delivers a once in a lifetime performance that stays with the viewer long after - and I mean years after - the film has finished.
Naked does not mess around with polite small talk, No, it truly baptizes the viewer into a gritty, dirty puddle of London which leaves you feeling like taking a shower after your through.
When I watched Naked as a student I had been to London only once, having now lived in the capital for over two years I have seen the dirty underbelly and appreciate the honesty of leigh's film more so now than ever.
I particularly enjoyed 'The wandering Scots', and the 'Security Guard' whom are both lost, yet in very different ways.
Thinking back to the time i watched it i was captivated by the dialog, and the self destructive element that hung like dynamite around our characters. This frustrated me than but now being more mature i can accept it as inevitable for these individuals.
I can honestly say that there are not many movies that make one feel this way, make one reflect and feel so empty looking at Johnys life and future...
I have the utmost respect for all the actors in this film. Yet, it has been a number of years since i have watched it as it is a long embarkation through the soul of human suffering...watch it for the pure genius that is Mike & David but be sure to watch it in good company that has an open mind.
The protagonist is also highly unbelievable for social realism - ravenously consuming canonical English literature and the bible while high or hungover and able to produce such profoundly sophomoric soliloquies while intoxicated? And how is such an unattractive, unwashed and verbally noxious character able to bed most of the women he meets within minutes of encountering them? (I had to applaud when one chick finally threw him out onto the street, despite his whining and self-pitying banter).
The viewer encounters pretentious references to Ancient Greek literature, Nostradamus and the Book of Revelations. The impending doom of mankind, in the form of bar codes imprinted on our foreheads or right hands in spooky biblical fashion, is presented to a character who is oh-so-cleverly exposed in his role as a guardian of empty space.
This flick is over-scripted and over the top - a melodrama clumsily infused with pedestrian "philosophy" about the meaning of mankind, life, etc. It is trite, overwrought and tedious.
There are some very fine English films available with content similar to this film. "Nil by Mouth" is an excellent, far more interesting excursion into the lives of individuals in a similar social milieu. Ditto for "In the Warzone." And although the comparison is not even warranted, check out anything by Peter Greenaway, who far more deftly handles dialogue, wit and absurd characters and situations.
The film was borne out of Leigh's then preoccupations with the tension between spiritual and material values, some tougher aspects of the relationship between the sexes, and above all, a profound sense of impending, apocalyptic doom. 'Pre-Millennium Tension', Tricky called it in 1996, for an album steeped in paranoia, "psychic pollution" and regret. "Forever - what does that mean?" asks his lover. "It means we'll manage" Tricky grimly retorts. Manage. For Naked's damaged roster of characters, churning out their faded sexual rituals or wearily braced for more verbal and physical trauma, simply 'managing' would be a desirable state to attain.
As Leigh told 'Cineaste' in 1994, "In so far as Naked is about England, the fabric of society is collapsing. People are insecure, there is a sense of disintegration which is, as much as anything else, a legacy of the Tories." The previous decade's boom and bust had left almost every strata of society reeling, with a great many financially or emotionally ill-equipped for the subsequent recession, the period in which the film is set. It is hardly surprising that more people were admitted into psychiatric care during the 1980s than in any previous decade; subsequently released into communities which no longer existed or didn't care about them.
The Poll Tax levy, fleecing the poorest communities while propping up the richest, had also contributed to more numbers of homeless than ever. And Naked's original remit was to have focused on the street, until Leigh decided the subject was too one-dimensional. "Maggie!" bawls twitching Scots straggler Archie (Ewen Bremner) helplessly, in one of the film's subtler allusions. "She's gone, mate" mutters David Thewlis's Johnny, chief pallbearer of the post-Thatcherite malaise. "Those days are over."
However, Naked ought not to be taken chiefly as a state-of-the-nation polemic: the film working out of a broader European tradition of dark, existential allegory. Here, the homeless are those who have been disenfranchised from family, jobs, values - and us, for we can only guess at their stories, as they stumble like medieval cripples through a heightened, Dante-esquire vision of urban London.
The sole emblematic landmark to be glimpsed is the BT Tower looming high above the horizon: more unreachable communication. Appropriately, for a drama exploring rootlessness and displacement, the Naked City (shot in pitiless bleach-bypass to imbue the film with a grainy, Dickensian quality) has collapsed in on itself, having entered a black hole respecting no spatial perimeters. Johnny's sleepless odyssey through the capital's cafes, empty office blocks and bedroom floors will take him from Soho to Shoreditch in minutes.
Almost everybody in Naked is on the move, arriving or departing, to Andrew Dickson's driving, melancholy score. But rarely digging in, lending the film its picaresque quality - a latter-day pilgrim's progress through the Inferno. As befitting a film dealing with the end of days, mythical and Biblical references abound, from 'The Iliad' to the 'Book Of Revelation': Johnny's number of the Beast 'barcode' rant had been prompted by a pamphlet handed to the actor in the street, and its execution - an astonishing verbal juggling act in silhouette - would take around two dozen takes to perfect.
With his head framed against the halo-making rays of a Roman clock, Johnny is both broken Christ and testing devil, crying out to save souls, to reach somebody - anybody - while simultaneously flagellating them for their crucifying ennui. "Do you believe in God?" he's asked at one juncture. "Of course I believe in God," he snaps back. Faith, or lack of it, is not the issue. The question is: what manner of maker has led us to this point?
All performances here are exemplary, including stunning turns from the late, great Katrin Cartlidge who plays the desperate, self-medicated goth Sophie, and Lesley Sharp, Johnny's ex-girlfriend Louise and Naked's moral compass. In Johnny himself (a slice of Lydon, a shave of Lennon and a dose of Mark E Smith) director and actor would create a complex mix of the callous and compassionate, though rarely without a splenetic machine-gun wit: the survivor's apparatus. Only once will a comeback desert him, when "insecurity guard" Brian tells him: "Don't waste your life."
Thewlis had read the equivalent of a small bookshop to prepare for the part, and the ever-present dog-eared paperbacks in Johnny's satchel are like his theories; things to be picked up, appropriated or stolen, then put down. For the autodidact who expresses his sense of self though words, the permanent removal of those books will precipitate his breakdown.
That breakdown was "more or less real," Thewlis told this writer, years later. "That's how I felt - raging. The origin of it is where we experimented with him going inside himself. What I come out with at that point is fairly incoherent and ambiguous, and that's based on this day we had which we used to refer to as the 'Wobbly'. When we were filming the scene it was like 'Okay let's go there now'. I went to a bit of a strange place in my head. It was worth it."
Thewlis still receives plaudits for Johnny, and still receives work off the back of it. Steven Spielberg once requested an audience with him, after Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma spent a night arguing about the film.
"I get this quite a lot" he muses. "People either come up to me and say 'You changed my life', 'That was me', or 'You said everything that I've ever thought'. A few religious nuts in America wrote to me saying 'Remember, God loves you.'"
"Naked" is a pretentious, meaningless film. It is an excuse for a lot of neurotic actors to over-act (very self-consciously), and to chew up the scenery in attempts to impress us with how gritty and down and dirty they are able and willing to become while practicing their "craft." The most sickening example of this is seen in the final, ridiculously protracted shot, in which we have to watch David Thewlis hobbling toward the camera with that asinine expression on his face, after so many scenes in which we've had to watch him and the other "artists" in this film mugging and hamming it up ad-nauseum. I wanted to scream out: "I am NOT impressed!" Thewlis is not a great actor. His performance is that of a pathetic man who clearly didn't get enough attention as a child.
But people seem to think that if a film contains unsympathetic characters, difficult subject matter, and an unconventional style of storytelling, then it must be a work of true genius. I couldn't agree less.
My wife and I sat through about 40 minutes and she couldn't watch any more. I later went back and finished watching myself to see if it got any better, but alas, it did not. This movie is a self-important piece of garbage full of completely unlikable characters and uncomfortable situations with no emotional payoffs. Johnny is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, and that also goes for the film itself.
Don't be fooled.
For a start, Johnny wouldn't have lasted one day back in 90's London done up as he was. That oily 70's porno-moustache would have been torn clean off his face within 12 hours.
Secondly, why does Mike Leigh think ALL women are slags?
Thirdly, what's with all the rape stuff? And what's with the voyeurism? Er,.....Mike?
Fourthly, WTF is going on with the ending? My guess - based on his previous form: Johnny hops to the nearest phonebox to drink a bottle of vodka, pleasure himself over the phone-book, beat his head bloody against the door jamb, and collapse in a pool of vomit - all the while reading the Schrodinger equation aloud in a whining northern accent.
I really wish that had been the ending! And that then a steamroller - piloted by the security guard tersely singing 'Any Old Iron' in a monotone - had very slowly crushed said phonebox flat with Johnny inside, accompanied by his screams, imprecations, philosophical incantations and begging. Johnny's last words would be 'Tetley Tea Folk...Marquis de Sade...'.
Seriously, just because it was 'cough, cough' a bit different, doesn't mean this film was great.
Please grow up, everyone.
The discussion between Johnny and the nightwatch(Brian), is in my humble opinion one of the greatest pieces of dialogs in a movie script. Mike Leigh has a special talent for telling the life story of a supporting character in 2-4 simple frames, like the young girl at the café(and if you rent Secrets & Lies, you will love the sequence with the former owner of Maurice's shop).
David Thewlis performance as Johnny is just frightening, it should be the benchmark for acting for his generation. But it is a great display from all would love to know what Leigh does, to get that kind of performance. The ending is both logical and utterly sad, but it is true to the characters and the story. Go Rent it now
I was told that this was one of the best British films ever made. Well, if that is the case, now I know why the UK is not an empire anymore.
What is the point of depicting the scum of the human race, weak and stupid women, losers, a succession of rape scenes, and a lot of smoking.
I guess I am stupid, unsophisticated, but I really do not understand what is the objective of these artsy-fartsy films. Is this how "normal" people behave? Should one care for those idiots pictured in the film? What do we learn from it? What is the message?
Funny thing is that when these "avant-garde" directors and screen writers decide to "create" something innovative they resort to the cheap trick of shocking the audiences with ugly sex scenes, lowlives, losers, drug addicts and all other types of human garbage, with the hope of gaining the "hearts and minds" of the "intellectuals" and the "thinking elite" which seem to enjoy such drivel.
I rather watch my garbage rot than watching something like that again. At least, the rotting of garbage is an useful and interesting biochemical process. On the other hand a movie like "Naked" is like garbage that never rots away, it stays putrid, rancid, bad-smelling and ugly for ever.
"Naked" doesn't have a plot in the traditional movie sense, but it never lets up for a second, with its constant influx of new characters, and Johnny's wonderful quick-witted utterings and thoughts. One needs a little while to get used to Johnny's thick Manchester accent, but it's worth it.
I always cringe when someone pretentiously advertises a movie as a "character study", but this movie is one of very few to deserve such an "exalted" labeling.
There is absolutely nothing redeeming at all about this over-hyped pretentious, trite drivel.
I am not a big fan of Mike Leigh, but do admire David Thewlis, however, this has to be worst from both of them.
A much better Leigh movie (in my opinion) is "All or Nothing " Naked frankly made me squirm throughout the movie with all the gibberish pretentious / pseudo political tripe.