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on 1 September 2008
Naked hit me like a sledgehammer when I first saw it. Unmatched in intensity, it examines several lives in different degrees of detail with one thing in common. They are all alone - even the girls who share the flat and the rich City boy with his girlfriends and conquests. Johnny links them together - his interactions with them, at times gentle, at times vicious and vile. We see, through excellence of acting and writing which is taut but often exuberant, how the morass of London isolates as often as it brings together.

This is a true London film, made up mostly of non-Londonders. It shines a light onto people living in the early 90s, recession-hit, post-Thatcher period. It is a political film, polemical and angry. Johnny is seemingly full of wonder at the world, railing against the 'me, now' generation, and yet deeply cynical about the purpose of existence.

Mike Leigh was accused of being misanthropic with Naked, focusing on the worst of human nature. But you can take from it what you want - in some people's lives there is little or no redemption, but there are moments. Moments of joy, kindness, laughter - even among the despair. You can take the great lines, the arguments, the speeches, the quotations. Take the fact that your life might have gone down the route of many of those people, but didn't. If it sounds like I treated this film like a religious experience, for many years I did. It is beautiful and powerful, rich and epic in its themes. I've never seen another film that spoke more to me about people.
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VINE VOICEon 4 August 2007
Someone I know once called this the "Most depressing film I have ever seen ". He obviously hadn't seen "Mad Cows" or "Pearl Harbour" for while Naked is without doubt ,a bleak, sordid trawl through Britain's or more appositely London's underbelly it is shot through with caustic humour , odd moments of baffling empathy and is disturbingly compulsive .
Naked is ,to give it a slightly pseudo sarky synopsis in thrall to its nihilistic anti-hero , an Oddysey for the nineties ( it was released in 1993)as Johnny (David Thewlis)flees his native Manchester for London to escape the beating surely coming his way after raping a girl in an alleyway. Johnny isn't a very nice person, He's misogynistic (Indeed the whole film has been accused of misogyny , overlooking the fact that the films moral centre is female), cruel , calculating and mendacious .However he is also laceratingly witty , and fiercely intelligent so that despite his objectionable behavoiur his painful self awareness and razor sharp mind win you over.
Once in London Johnny tracks down ex-girlfriend Louise (Lesley Sharp) who is sharing a flat with neurotic Lesley (Karin Cartlidge) .Johnny , quick to spot vulnerability seduces Lesley .The flats landlord Jeremy (Greg Cruttwell) , is the films one character drawn in broad strokes A virulently obnoxious product of Thatcher's policies and world view he is a snorting stalking oil slick of a man , happy to accept sexual favours in lieu of rent and dispensing crass one liners like the repulsive off spring of Alan Bastard and Bernard Manning .
Johnny wishing to escape the clutches of the over bearing Lesley goes an fascinating tour of the capitols seamy back streets interacting with the characters he randomly bumps into. There is Archie(Ewen Bremner) , a young Scotsman with a violent tick -which Johnny relentlessly mimics ,screaming for his girlfriend Maggie( Susan Vidler). While Archie is clearly disturbed and completely disenfranchised to Johnny he is mere amusement and once bored with him he moves on meeting Brian ( Peter Wright) a night watchman "Guarding Space" and its here , in their exchanges that Johnny's voracious intelligence and veracity really shines as he flattens the trusting and gentle Brian with his apocalyptic logic.
He taunts Brian by seducing a women(Deborah McClaren) Brian has been observing from his workplace, winds up a wired fly poster(Darren Tuntstall) so much that he head butts him, then attempts to win over an attractive waitress in a café(Gina Mckee) before being beaten up by a laughing gang in an alley way . Crawling back to the flat he is given the option of a way out of his current sordid life by the empathic Louise , but not before the return of the flats true owner Sandra(Claire Skinner)back from a holiday in Africa who is so appalled by events that she is rendered almost speechless ,not that it stops her trying as Johnny finishes her sentences for her in vary funny scene.
The film ends on a down beat note as Johnny having shared a tender compassionate moment with Louise , the films one truly sympathetic character -a scene which also hints at deep seated psychological problems for him -he steals her money and slinks off limping . The thought of settling down and leading something approximating a normal life which is what Louise offers are more than he can bear and so he rejects her and chooses the sordid nefarious existence instead.
Naked is a relentless trawl though a dystopian country , and sadly one that has if anything descended further into dystopia and societal meltdown. The film relied heavily on improvisation , though little of what we see on screen was ad-libbed , the improvisation was more of a tool for the actors to know their characters .Thewlis gives an absolutely mesmerizing performance as Johnny , so much so its hard to see him as anyone else , and the other actors are all superb . Naked is truly great British film and an inexplicably overlooked one at that . It's not easy viewing , for sure but there aren't many films that you come way from looking at not just the events portrayed differently but life as a whole. You may reject most of it but think about it you will .
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on 18 November 2008
This Mike Leigh film is outstanding! I believe it was nominated for several awards at the Cannes film festival, and rightly so. David Thewlis plays Johnny, a complex anti-hero, which you love and loath in equal quantities. The dialogue is hilarious, witty, condescending and at times just plain mean.

The standout scene for me is when Johnny is invited into a security unit by a guard out of sympathy. Johnny then proceeds to destroy this poor man's hopes and dreams with a scathing philosophical monologue about our future as a human race. The supporting cast are equally good, in particular Greg Cruttwell as the nihilistic, vain and deeply shallow landlord. The music score is eerily compelling and haunting , and fits perfectly with the characters and scenery.

Unfortuntly Leigh hasn't made anything this dark or disturbing before or since. However he's still more consistent than most directors, and has become somewhat of a master at making thought provoking films.
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on 18 December 2011
This film to me is one of the most haunting and significant films I have ever seen - probably THE most. I've live a whole lot of life and seen thousands of films, but none of those films have come close to portraying the helplessness and hopelessness of life as this does.

I first saw it in the '90s at a time when my life was chaotic. I understand how a person's life can fall from order to disorder and randomness over the period of a weekend. Having random experiences and meeting random people can be one of the best experiences in life and also the worst. Mike Leigh portrays this as well as can be done without experiencing it. To the people who don't understand this film, who may think it's directionless, I say this is simply because you have not lived this kind of life. Don't watch the film with expectations and judge it by your own lives - watch it with an open mind and understand that this is the kind of thing that can happen to real people.

David Thewlis was the perfect casting for this role, his depiction of the lead character is basically flawless. I found this film indredibly depressing and powerful to watch, probably because it counterpointed so many problems with my own lifestyle. I understand that to people who have lived an ordered life this film will seem odd and unrealistic. Each time I put this film on I do so with a sense of trepidation as I know it's going to affect me, but it's so damn good I just have to, though I ration myself to a few times a year.
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on 14 November 2007
I'm not a big fan of extremely short reviews; they have an air of self importance, but I'm about to write one anyway:

The best British film ever made? This is the best film ever made, period.

Watch it and you'll understand, as they say. Despite the moments of (dark) humour, this is bleak cinema which won't be to everyone's taste, but then it IS a Mike Leigh film, so you should know roughly what to expect.
The unfolding tragedies of the story have a similar cumulative impact to a Sarah Kane play, albeit without her subject matter or extremism.
It's an intense, car-crash-hypnotic state-of-the-nation address which also arguably forms and ends a kind of trilogy following High Hopes and Life is Sweet, set against the background of Thatcherite recession; there's probably enough subtext here for a dissertation.
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on 15 August 2002
Without question, one of my top five films of the 90's. It is a story without a story in that the main focus of the film is the relationship between lead character Johnny (played by David Thewliss) and the people he meets and not what happens to him over a period of time. The screenplay is one of the most powerful I've ever seen and portrays such a bitter, confused and utterly manic lead character. The best example of this is when he comes in contact for the first time with a security guard working night shift in some high street building he comes across while out roaming one night in London. The spark between the two, be it frictional and provocative, creates one of the most powerful scenes I've ever witnessed. Johnny, forever depressing and pessimistic tries to convince the security guard that the end (of the world) is nigh but the guard thinks otherwise. Sounds like a conversation one might hear in the local pub between two "ordinary" strangers, but that's what makes Mike Leigh such a cinematic legend - getting his players to convey such a banal, everyday yet emotional existence that is in everyone of us.
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on 12 October 2000
Fantastic film. Mike Leigh takes another dive into the seedy underworld of British life. Most of the action revolves around the central character of Johnny (David Thewlis), a Mancunian drifter who decides to visit his ex-girlfriend in London. Johnny is the archetypal angry young man whose intelligence and wit goes to waste as he spend his time wandering the streets, taunting people and philosophizing upon the hopelessness of life. David Thewlis is outstanding as the verbosely articulate Johnny and the supporting actors also deliver moving performances. This is essentially a very dark film, which shows both violence and compassion towards it's characters.
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on 10 February 2007
This is one of the best British films that i've seen in a long time. David Thewlis gives an incredible performance. I'm not a huge fan of some of Mike Leigh's more recent films bit this is one of his best in my opinion. (I also recommend Meantime and High Hopes). I can't really think of any films to compare this to as it is unique but if you like dark, thought provoking cinema then you should watch this. Also, there are some good extras on this criterion edition which make it worth buying.
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Mike Leigh's 1993 film Naked is undoubtedly his most controversial (and, probably, uncompromising) work, certainly not an easy watch, but, for me at least, it is a film whose complexity and hidden depths are revealed on repeated viewings. Set in bleak, rubble-strewn, 'broken', post-Thatcher, urban Britain, strangely enough, at its heart, and via the bravura performance of David Thewlis' Johnny (easily the best thing Thewlis has done during his up-and-down career), is a tale of idealism and romance (honest!).

Of course, Leigh has, in a sense, disguised these themes under Johnny's extravagant persona, and the master film-maker has many other things to say in Naked, around subjects such as communication (or lack of it) in the modern world and the (veritable) meaning of human existence (and the potential apocalypse). Leigh has also conjured up an immaculate and evocative palette for his view of the mixed up world via cinematographer Dick Pope's stunning photography (including the brilliant, un-Leigh-like opening hand-held sequence of Johnny having rough sex in a back alley, before departing his hometown Manchester for London) and through Andrew Dickson's typically idiosyncratic score, which features a mesmerising, recurring central theme.

Narratively, Naked is more in the 'Leigh Meantime' vein, featuring a series of chance encounters (vignettes) between Johnny and Leigh's chosen set of (sometimes intellectual) verbal, sparring partners for his central protagonist. These include the brilliant sequence featuring Ewen Bremner's Archie ('What's it like being you, a bit hectic?') who is seeking the whereabouts of 'girlfriend' Maggie! - the brilliant Susan Vidler - (a sequence, as Leigh tells it, which attracted the unwanted attention of the police during improvisation as Thewlis and Bremner were still 'in character') and the equally impressive, and dialogue-rich, encounter with Peter Wight's introverted and philosophical security guard Brian, which also reveals Johnny's more tolerant side. Leigh also powerfully depicts the dead-end and isolated nature of (some) modern human existence via Johnny's encounter with Deborah MacLaren's deluded, 'erotic dancer' ('You look like me mother') and with Gina McKee's sad, shy and gullible café worker.

It is though (of course) Thewlis' central performance (and characterisation) which carries the film (and by which the film no doubt succeeds or fails for the audience). Although undoubtedly dependent on the brilliance of Leigh's witty and acerbic script (for me, certainly his best ever), I would find it difficult to over-praise Thewlis' turn, certainly one of the best in recent cinema, with his portrayal of the mercurial, calculating, profound, temperamental, idealistic, lustful ('Thanks for the mammaries'), violent, ironic, well-read, political, witty ('Hello Sandra'), sarcastic, philosophical, abusive, predatory and, of course, uncompromising Johnny. Mancunian Lesley Sharp is also excellent as Johnny's true love, the pragmatic, reserved and 'bored with life', Louise - whose scene with Johnny singing, 'Take me back to Manchester when it's raining...' provides one of the film's most touching moments (and points to Leigh's own Mancunian heritage). Similarly, Katrin Cartlidge is good (if rather exaggerated) as Louise's flat-mate, the monotonic, sultry, insecure, promiscuous, masochistic and obsessive, Sophie (who also provides moments of dark humour, 'Oh God, here we go') as is Claire Skinner as the returning from holiday, 'flat owner', Sandra whose hysterical reaction to the state of debauchery awaiting her (including the inability to complete a sentence), is hilarious. For me, the only weakness in Leigh's characterisations here is Greg Crutwell's vile, misogynist, yuppie landlord, Jeremy/Sebastian, whose turn does rather grate (more than it is supposed to).

Of course, Leigh also does not let the audience off the hook with the potential of a romantic conclusion to Johnny's escapades, and his closing sequence (accompanied by Dickson's mesmerising theme) of Johnny limping off down the street, to who knows where, is one of the most memorable in recent cinema (reminding me, strangely enough, of the ending of The Third Man).

For me, Naked is a film that requires repeat viewings, as a result of which the film has risen in my rankings amongst Leigh's (top) films, whose approximate order would be something like Topsy-Turvy, Meantime, Vera Drake, Naked, Secret And Lies, All Or Nothing, Life Is Sweet and Career Girls.
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on 27 July 2004
No sentimentalising the proles here a la 'Secrets and Lies.' Thewlis is incredible: a bitter, ranting Mancunian autodidactic seer, like a nastier Mark E. Smith. But, why - oh - why has this amazing film not been released on DVD yet?
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