Blu-ray: Naked (1993)
Naked begins with Johnny (David Thewlis) having sex with an older woman in a dark back alley in Manchester, and when he begins to get too rough with her she runs away screaming at him.
Escaping his home city in a stolen car to avoid retribution for his sexual misgivings, he arrives at the lodgings of ex-girlfriend Louise (Lesley Sharp), who shares the accommodation with Sophie (Katrin Cartlidge) and Sandra (Claire Skinner); a nurse who is currently away on holiday.
Sophie becomes obsessed with Johnny, and while he uses her physically, she doesn’t stimulate his overactive mind, leaving him to wander the streets of London interacting with a variety of different people.
To say anything else about the narrative of Naked would spoil an unforgettable experience for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet, and Naked is definitely one of those films where it’s a case of “once seen, never forgotten”.
Johnny is a character that would be a nightmare to meet in real life, but much like finding yourself having to look at an accident as you drive past it, you are transfixed to the screen as this character uses and abuses people both physically and mentally, all while verbalising his stream of consciousness, leaving you wondering if he is a misunderstood genius, or just psychotic…with some answers to that coming towards the end of the film in yet another brilliantly acted scene by Thewlis.
Naked is dark, both in tone and in its predominantly nighttime settings, with each passing minute dragging you further into the depths of Johnny’s nomad existence as he seemingly tries to assert his mental superiority over everyone, while also making sure that women know who is dominant physically when it comes to sex.
The cast of characters (and the actors that play them) are wonderful, with my particular favourite being Archie (Ewen Bremner): a young man from Scotland who is trying to find his girlfriend after they have been separated on the dark streets of London…“MAAAAAGIE”.
It is Johnny’s chance encounters with characters such as Archie which always fascinate me, no matter how many times I watch Naked. Wandering an empty building at night with a lonely security guard, going home with a girl who works at a cafe, each of them damaged in their own way, and now finding themselves in the company of a man who is telling them where they are going wrong with their lives…a man who is destitute and burdened by the baggage of his own past that he can’t escape.
There are moments of humour scattered throughout, but these are fleeting and disappear as quickly as the hopes and dreams of the characters, with the crushing despair of reality always coming to the fore.
Naked leaves you drained when you’ve watched it, and wanting to put on a 30 minute comedy show to cheer you up. But that speaks volumes for how effective it is as a piece of dramatic filmmaking, and how utterly unforgettable it is.
A cinematic “must watch”, Naked has never looked better than in this BFI blu-ray release, remastered in 4K under the full supervision of Dick Pope, and approved by Mike Leigh.
- Newly remastered in 4K by the BFI National Archive under the supervision of cinematographer Dick Pope and approved by Mike Leigh
- Audio commentary with Mike Leigh, David Thewlis and Katrin Cartlidge
- The Short & Curlies (1987, 18 mins): Mike Leigh’s short film starring Alison Steadman and David Thewlis centres on a hairdresser and her daughter and the romance between a woman who works in a chemist and a man who mainly communicates through jokes
- Mike Leigh and Dick Pope on Naked (2021, 26 mins): newly recorded interview with Mike Leigh and his long-time cinematographer
- The Guardian Interview: Mike Leigh (2002, 45 mins): the director is interviewed by film critic Derek Malcolm at the National Film Theatre
- Image gallery
- Trailer (2021)
- ***First pressing only*** Illustrated booklet with new writing on the film by Caitlin Quinlan and Lou Thomas and notes on the special features
Review by Dave from a disc kindly supplied by the BFI.