Naked (The Criterion Collection
Director - Mike Leigh
Cast - David Thewlis, Lesley Sharp, Katrin Cartlidge
Country of Origin - U.K.
Discs - 1
MSRP - $39.95
Distributor - Criterion
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (5/5)
Mike Leigh's Naked is one of the extraordinarily long list of films that I've meant to see for a very long time, that I was unable to see until recently. I heard about it during the great British independent film invasion of the 90's that exposed more mainstream audiences for the first time to the works of Danny Boyle (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting) and Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking Barrels). I saw a trailer, and then a few years later read a very interesting essay about it, but never got my hands on it to view it.
It was one of those films whose reputation has built up in my head to immense proportions, so the questions was would it live up to them? I am happy to say that it not only matched, but exceeded my expectations in every single way. The film is a bizarre masterpiece. It's both a gritty, reality based, dramatic, dialogue driver masterpiece, and a dark, twisted, surrealist black comedy.
The film stars David Thewlis as Johnny, an overeducated Mancunian drifter, who after executing a failed rape attempt ditches Manchester for London, and ends up staying at the flat of ex-girlfriend Louise (Lesley Sharp), and her flatmate Sophie (Katrin Cartlidge). I love night films, and the good majority of the film (and the most memorable portions) take place during Johnny's nocturnal trek through London. Where he encounters a homeless couple (played wonderfully by Ewen Bremner and Susan Vidler), a security guard, and an extremely disturbed waitress.
A secondary plot runs through the film featuring a character either named Jeremy or Sebastian who is the landlord of Louise, Sophie, and their M.I.A., for a majority of the film 3rd flatmate Sandra. This person is a borderline psychopath, whose plot parallels the other events of the film, but doesn't really make sense until the 3rd act when Jeremy arrives at the girl's flat. His presence takes the carefully timed dreamlike flow of the film, and turns it into nightmarish chaos.
The film is a masterpiece on pretty every angle you can attack it from. The cast is uniformly excellent from David Thewlis extremely nuanced performance as Johnny which truly anchors the film, down to the performance of Peter Wight as a security guard. The film is a beautiful stylistic exercise, with fantastic cinematography by Dick Pope and the direction from Leigh is, of course, impeccable both working as a gritty indie film, and yet having the occasion polish of a Kubrick film (watch the Security guard sequence again if you don't believe me!). Naked simply put is one of the best British indies of the 90's, and I sincerely wish I had gotten to it sooner.
Criterion has woven their HD Magic once again on this glorious 1:85:1 1080p transfer of Mike Leigh's Naked. While I cannot compare it to another source, I can say that this looks probably as good as projected. The transfer is crisp and clean with a hint of film grain. The black levels are completely deep and solid, and flesh tones are accurate. There is some minor softness issues during some exterior scenes, but this has more to do with the production source than the transfer itself.
The audio restoration is similarly excellent, and is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 transfer. The dialogue, effects, and music are mixed well. The score practically pops from your speakers. I did not notice any sort of audio imperfections such as pops, hissing, or distortion anywhere on this track.
As usual Criterion have put together an interesting and excellent slate of extra together for this release. The extras from the research I have done have been ported over from the DVD, regardless they are excellent. They kick off with Leigh's 1987 short also starring Thewlis The Short and Curlies. Thewlis also plays a smartass in this one, and fans of Naked should be pleased with this excellent short treasure from the Leigh archives. The short also features a commentary track by Mike Leigh. (Presented in 1080i)
This is followed up by an interview with director Mike Leigh conducted by author Will Self for a BBC series titled the Art Zone. The interview focuses half an hour long, and offers an interesting perspective of an author interviewing a director. The interview does offer a good focus on Naked, and offers a lot of excellent information on the film. There is also an excellent commentary track recorded back in 1994 (was their a Criterion Laserdisc?) with Mike Leigh, David Thewlis, and Katrin Cartlidge. There is also a short video deconstruction/tribute from director Neil Lebute (The Wicker Man remake, In The Company of Men). There is also a booket of liner notes, and the films original trailer.
A brilliant film gets an excellent package courtesy of Criterion. The audio/video alone is worth the premium Criterion price, and the extras really push it over the top. Naked is an absolute cinematic masterpiece, and this Blu-ray comes highly recommended.