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The Criterion Collection presents
Naked (1993)

"I know it's a bit cheeky but, er, I'm a cheeky young monkey!"
- Johnny (David Thewlis)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: September 19, 2005

Stars: David Thewlis, Katrin Cartlidge
Other Stars: Lesley Sharpe, Greg Cruttwell, Peter Wight, Ewen Bremner
Director: Mike Leigh

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, profanity, scenes of violence)
Run Time: 02h:11m:38s
Release Date: September 20, 2005
UPC: 715515016223
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ A+AA- A-

DVD Review

Only one word is needed to capture the overall feeling of Mike Leigh's underappreciated classic Naked, and that word is "mean." Each and every ounce of this 1993 film's substance just oozes hatred towards life in general. However, what sets this project apart from similar bleak looks at life in the downtrodden parts of England is Leigh's obvious grip on humanity. He shows us people being as cruel as they can possibly be towards one another and themselves, but the way in which he delivers his messages brings to the struggles that all humans have with relationships, regardless of their nature.

Naked made a huge splash at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, where Leigh took home the Best Director Award, and David Thewlis was awarded for Best Actor. Thewlis also received high praise from numerous critics' groups that year, and rightfully so, as his depiction of Johnny is simply unforgettable. Leigh's international career has been catapulted by the success of Naked, as he has gained notoriety in the US for Secrets & Lies, Topsy-Turvy, and 2004's Vera Drake, all of which garnered Oscar nominations for either writing or direction.

Leigh's Naked tells the story of Johnny, a man whom we first see in a dark alley in London having particularly rough sex with a woman who is crying during the act. After he runs off, leaving the woman behind, we soon realize that Johnny is on the run from someone or something, the identity of which we never do discover. Johnny's travels lead him back to the flat of an ex-girlfriend, Louise (Lesley Sharp). It turns out that Louise isn't home, but her roommate Sophie (the late Katrin Cartlidge) is, and the drifter doesn't waste any time getting her into bed.

Sophie almost instantly falls in love with Johnny, but we get the feeling that this vagabond is looking for any man to fall in love with and set her straight, in more ways than one. When Louise returns home and sees her ex-flame, there is instant tension. While the problems in their relationship are never described explicitly, there's no doubt that some serious damage was done by both parties.

Johnny eventually sets out and meets Brian (Peter Wight), a night watchman Johnny somewhat befriends, yet we get the feeling that these two spend so much time talking to one another, because the other is really all each man has. Johnny's journeys also bring him to the funniest encounter in this dark comedy—he meets Archie (Trainspotting's Ewen Bremner), a Scot whose accent makes him practically indecipherable.

While Johnny is out, we meet Sophie and Louise' very disturbing landlord who calls himself Sebastian (Greg Cruttwell). He shows up at their place (although we eventually learn that this really isn't their apartment), sexually assaults Sophie, and basically won't leave. In the end, these four lives (and the actual tenant of the flat) collide, and we learn if their pathetic lives can actually get worse than they are.

Naked simply would not be the same film without David Thewlis, who wouldn't be the actor he is today without this career-defining role. He's never enjoyed great commercial success, but just seeing his name in the credits is enough to interest film buffs. Thewlis really hasn't carried the lead in a film since, and the closest he's come to a major hit was his work in the last Harry Potter movie. Even though his career has been rather low-key, it doesn't seem to bother Thewlis, and it's too bad that we don't have more top actors (are you listening, DeNiro?) that pick their scripts as carefully as he does.

Katrin Cartlidge also shines as Sophie. She makes this drugged-out, spacey loser completely despicable, making her early encounter with Johnny, and especially their sex scene, extremely difficult to watch. Cartlidge completely sells the strangest character that Mike Leigh's ever brought to the screen, having the perfect downtrodden look of such a person. This extremely talented British actress, best known for her work in Breaking the Waves and From Hell, passed away recently due to complications from pneumonia.

Upon Naked's theatrical release, Mike Leigh was labeled a misogynist due to the extremely negative treatment of women in the film. However, those who look carefully will see that these women fight back just as much as they are abused. The strength of these actresses truly helps Leigh get the message across, with both Sharp and Cartlidge giving performances the likes of which we rarely see. While their lifestyles (particularly Cartlidge's Sophie) may not be the sorts to emulate, these women wouldn't have it any other way. Leigh even gives these characters the slightest glimmer of hope in the end, which, given the tone of the rest of the film, is somewhat of a surprise.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is easily the best that Naked has ever looked on home video. Some extensive clean-up work has been done, eliminating practically all traces of dirt or grain, and allowing the dark, dirty, and murky look of Mike Leigh's film to appear as intended. The contrast and shadow levels are perfectly handled, the fleshtones are true, and there isn't any bleeding.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The original Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is excellent as well, with Andrew Dickson's original score given the opportunity to shine. This haunting music is blended perfectly with the biting dialogue, that is always crisp and clear. Most of the audio comes from the front speakers, but the aforementioned score does get a chance to be heard from the rear speakers as well.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 43 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Mike Leigh, David Thewlis, Katrin Cartlidge
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. The Short and Curlies - 1987 Short film by Mike Leigh
Extras Review: We can always count on Criterion for a nice extras collection and there's more of the same in this two-disc set. The first disc has a feature-length audio commentary with director Mike Leigh, as well as David Thewlis and Katrin Cartlidge. Recorded for an earlier home video release, this track is very insightful, yet creepy, considering that Cartlidge passed away a few years ago. Leigh and company do go into great detail about the making of Naked, and what its critical success (particularly at the Cannes Film Festival) meant to each of them.

Disc 1 also houses the film's original trailer.

Disc 2 has three extras, including Leigh's short film from 1987 called The Short and Curlies. This stars Thewlis as a nerdy nebbish who goes on a date with a girl that works at his local pharmacy and is a hairdresser's daughter. It is a very funny film, with the girl often struggling to deal with Thewlis' character, who only spews one-liners when he speaks.

Neil LaBute on Naked is a new 12-minute interview with the wonderful director of In the Company of Men. Recorded for this release in 2005, LaBute gives us his interpretation of what Naked is about, and how the film, and Mike Leigh, have influenced him as a director.

The Art Zone: The Conversation is an episode of the BBC arts program that aired in March of 2000. This show has novelist Will Self talking with Leigh about his special style and method of making movies and goes into nice detail about Naked.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

One of the best acting performances of the last 20 years make Naked worthy of the Criterion Collection treatment. The work by David Thewlis is only part of the charm of Mike Leigh's gritty, darkly comedic film. This two-disc set is long overdue, and the film has never looked or sounded better. The audio commentary and second disc of extras make this the most comprehensive release of Naked we're likely to see.


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