Naked (Hopscotch Ent) (1993)
|Year Of Production||1993|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Mike Leigh|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
If there was any justice in the World (and history has taught us that there probably isn't) British actor David Thewlis would have a cabinet full of awards and be fighting Daniel Day-Lewis for the defining roles of our time. He hasn't and despite acting his pants off in the Harry Potter series has remained a niche performer.
Although the winner of the Best Actor award at Cannes for his performance in Naked , along with the New York Critics Circle award and a BAFTA gong Thewlis has played a plantation worth of second bananas and made some regrettable choices (Basically It Stinks 2 anyone?).
Naked wasn't Thewlis' first film but it may as well have been a debut for the way that he ate up the screen and established himself as a major talent. A recent article about director Mike Leigh in Empire Magazine placed Thewlis' Johnny from Naked as the top character from all Leigh's films.
Johnny ( Thewlis) has fled Manchester for London. He is escaping a beating for a sexual indiscretion that is shown but not explained. Arriving in London he goes to the only place he knows - the home of his ex-girlfriend Louise (Lesley Sharp). She has tried to make a new life for herself outside Manchester and lives with the head lessee Sandra (Claire Skinner) who is away in Zimbabwe and Sophie (Katrin Cartledge) a constantly zonked out girl living on welfare.
Johnny's return sparks a mixture of love and hostility in Louise and adoration in Sophie with whom he immediately shares a bed. Louise has left Manchester for a boring soulless job in the city and Sophie has no thoughts beyond the next. Unable to bear the tension in the house he flees onto the streets and comes across an assortment of weird and damaged characters and pretty much insults them all. There is Brian the lonely security guard, an aged beauty who Brian fantasizes about, a Scottish couple lost in the night and a lonely cafe worker. These long cold nights bring out the bile in Johnny who rails against anything and everything. The core of the film are in these interactions. Sometimes we believe Johnny makes great sense, and other times he just rambles, but it is undeniable that he forces changes upon the people he meets letting them see the emptiness inside them all.
Meanwhile a sadistic rich fellow is doing the rounds. He is an ex boyfriend of Sandra and lets himself into the house while she is away to sexually assault and terrorize the girls. When Johnny returns home after a savage beating we know that all will change.
Mike Leigh has a curious filmmaking style which sees him rehearse the characters for a period without letting the actors see all the story. They perform it in costume and then only film it when they are comfortable that they know where it is going. This allows Leigh to see the story develop and creates a great environment for actors who love digging deep into their characters. Here that technique pays off in spades. Each of the vignettes with the different creatures of the night is intriguing. Sometimes they develop into lengthy stories and sometimes they just trail off.
Leigh is often described as the father of the "kitchen sink" dramas but, in truth, Naked feels more like the dodgy plumbing beneath the sink. London has rarely seemed so grim and uninviting and Sandra's flat is a hovel - full of overflowing ashtrays and unwashed plates.
As said, Thewlis is a revelation in the film. No one spits out an insult quite like Johnny and as much as we are repelled by him we cannot stop watching. Like Leaving Las Vegas the decline of Johnny is a poetic train wreck in slow motion. His accent is superb and the nuances of this character are deep and troubling. Post Thatcher Britain is heading towards an apocalypse of its own making and Johnny cannot and will not be a part of it. Disempowered, he is another madman standing in the rain. The ending is, for me, one of the great moments in modern cinema.
Cartlidge is both funny and pathetic as Sophie, speaking through barely opened lips and Sharp nails the sadness yet deep love beneath Louise. Loves of British film will notice a wealth of talent in early roles including Gina McKee(Notting Hill, Atonement) as the lonely cafe girl and Toby Jones (Truman Capote in Infamous, the voice of Dobby in the Harry Potters ) in a blink-or-you-will-miss-it role as a patron at a tea house.
Naked is relentless in its depiction of the underbelly and is not for all tastes. Yet it is surprising is how funny it is. Perhaps Lord Byron is our best guide to the humour in the film: And if I laugh at any mortal thing, 'Tis that I may not weep. The shock value of the grimy, depressing UK has perhaps been diminished by the likes of Trainspotting, The Royle Family and Shameless. In any event, Naked is as powerful, sorrowful and annoying now as it was 15 years ago. A rare masterpiece of savage social discontent.
Naked was shot on 35mm film and projected theatrically at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The DVD is in the same ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.
It is worth mentioning that IMDB gives the film an European widescreen 1.66:1 ratio. The Criterion Edition of the film mentions the wider aspect ratio and I tend to side with them.
Kitchen sink drama + low budget could well equal appalling picture quality. Not in this case. Despite the fact that the film is now pushing 15 years old and sprang from humble origins this is a pretty good transfer. There are a few minor specks and marks here and there but surprisingly few. The colour scheme is on the muted side but the image is crisp and well defined with no colour bleeding. Skin tones are depressingly accurate.
There are a few occasions on which noise can be seen in the image and a spot or two of edge enhancement. Overall, however, I was surprised and delighted that the film has been given such a decent transfer.
There are no subtitles which might dismay those who have trouble keeping up with the accents.
Naked features a basic Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack running at a very low 192 Kb/s.
Once again the end product is better than it sounds on paper. The accents which range from Mancunian, Cockney and Scottish are sometimes thick but I was still able to hear all the necessary dialogue.
The music, by perennial Mike Leigh scorer Andrew Dickson is a perfect, haunting accompaniment to the film. The combination of harp, viola and double bass creates an almost improvised feel as we follow Johnny on his descent. Despite the low bitrate the music is clear and cuts through some scenes like a hot knife through butter.
Audio sync is perfect.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are no extras.
This film is available in Region 1 and 2. As usual the Criterion Collection Edition is the go-to for any serious fan of the film. It is a 2 DVD affair which includes:
Whilst many of the above items could be considered interesting but not essential the audio commentary is indispensable particularly given that Cartlidge is no longer with us, after her sudden death in 2002. A clear win for Region 1. Having said that, if economics are an issue, I have seen this DVD on some store shelves for a lowly $14.92 and anyone not concerned at the lack of extras may find that to be a real bargain.
Naked is an exceptional work that is as demanding as it is compelling.
The transfer is better than expected and presents the film in its best possible light.
The lack of extras is an annoyance but given that the film is available as a budget offering I cannot be too critical.
|DVD||Pioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||Pioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer|