Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
Flower of Evil: Vintage verbal violence .
on 26 February 2015
Leigh's masterpiece, without a doubt. The anti-hero, Johnny, is a brilliant nihilist, in a blistering performance by David Thewlis in which he more than equals Travis Bickle's misanthropic provocateur as he slopes from sick Salford to London's mean streets, a man himself made mean; who knows what ills, what suffering, has made this extraordinary character. Men, women and everyone get the edge of the man's roiling, bitter tongue as he destroys the illusions of all he meets. He has scorn for all authority, the loathing of an autodidact almost yearning to meet someone his equal, who will resist his life-sapping tirades. Yet this is a film of such verbal brilliance and dingy, depressing life that somehow it doesn't depress. And it never lets up just as Johnny only knows full-throttle. It's not at all the Leigh of middle-class condescension, far from it. Does Leigh hate his man? No. His liveliness somehow enshrines the very scabrousness that he embodies, oddly. He's a cut-price Nietzsche on speed; he somehow transcends his own nullity, so fierce is his personality, so unremittingly alive. He remains unredeemed, yet like Baudelaire in his very nastiness there's just a hint of its opposite. I believe T.S. Eliot thought something of the same about Baudelaire; Flowers of Evil here as in the French poet's words somehow suggest a sort of redemption. Perhaps not for him though. Nice cameo from Ewen Bremner as a drunk in a spat in a short scene in a grimy London street with a girl, a Johnny without the words or the tenacity; Lesley Sharpe dependably excellent as his ill-treated 'girl', Gina McKee, Claire Skinner and the rest of a superb cast all combine to make this a truly great film; sui generis, certainly Leigh has made nothing else like it since, nor has anyone else. 'Nil By Mouth' with philosophy and verbal rather than physical violence; no praise higher.