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Naked Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Jul 4, 2011.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
    Reviewer

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    Naked (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Mike Leigh

    Studio: Criterion
    Year: 1993

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 131 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English
    Subtitles: SDH

    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 39.95


    Release Date: July 12, 2011

    Review Date: July 4, 2011



    The Film

    3.5/5


    Britain’s “angry young man” of the 1960s has been reincarnated from top to bottom in Mike Leigh’s Naked. A social treatise-existential meditation-barking condemnation combination of thoughts and feelings, Naked does indeed lay bare the anguish and frustration of a generation of young Britishers caught between making do and wanting more from their very existences. It’s a long, painful film to watch in many ways, but with the expert Mr. Leigh at the forefront of writing and directing, it’s sometimes funny, always interesting, and sometimes even riveting.


    After an upsetting encounter with a woman in Manchester, Johnny (David Thewlis) bolts from the city and arrives in London looking up his former girl friend Louise (Lesley Sharp) who lives with the neatnick Sandra (Claire Skinner), a nurse currently away in Zimbabwe, and the emotionally fragile and slow-witted Sophie (Katrin Cartlidge). Sophie flips for the volatile Johnny right away, but he’s not really interested in settling down with any girl. Over the course of three days, Johnny has a series of encounters with a battling Scots couple (Ewen Brenner, Susan Vidler), a security guard (Peter Wight) who lets him come in out of the cold, a woman he spies through a bedroom window (Deborah MacLaren), a waitress (Gina McKee), a bill poster, and inevitably a gang of punks in an alley, all of whom effect changes in Johnny. In the meantime, the brutish landlord (Greg Cruttwell) pays a surprise visit to the girls’ flat with more on his mind than the month’s rent.


    The most notorious aspect of the film’s first hour is the absolutely vicious barbed tongue that Johnny displays to everyone he meets. His words are like spears cutting into the bodies and souls of everyone he encounters, and the games he plays both physically and mentally with these encounters make his every statement and every movement a surprise. (The first character who refuses to play this game of one-upmanship with him is the waitress who reads his beads quickly and eventually casts him out of her flat in the middle of the night sparing herself the tussle and tangle of his wordplay. From then on, Johnny’s downward spiral as his words inflict less and less damage to those he meets changes the film’s tone shockingly.) At some points, what Johnny says isn’t as important (though often very sharp and with commanding wit buried beneath the onslaught of words) as his effect on others, and we watch his victims with rapt attention: how they react to what he throws at them reveals much about their own personas, one of the film’s real glories.


    Though Naked is not a one-man show, David Thewlis is front and center for a great majority of the running time in a fierce, focused performance of great power and dynamism (he won Best Actor at Cannes for this performance). The three flatmates couldn’t be more different: the centered Louis is wonderfully portrayed by Lesley Sharp as a young earth mother not yet cynical about her life and willing to continue trying, the dim bulb Sophie who allows her emotions to overrule her brain makes a pitifully memorable character in the hands of Katrin Cartlidge. Arriving late on the scene, Claire Skinner earns lots of laughs as the horrified roommate whose outrage at the condition of the apartment can’t be expressed in complete sentences. Greg Cruttwell as the vapid, vicious landlord who takes what he wants without conscience is a stunning alternate male presence in the film, his outward nattiness disguising a virtual psychopath underneath. Peter Wight is an agreeable average Joe as the security guard, and Gina McKee and Deborah MacLaren will break numerous hearts with soulful interpretations of their damaged characters.



    Video Quality

    5/5


    The theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is beautifully rendered throughout this quietly reference transfer with subdued but spot-on color saturation and accurately portrayed flesh tones. Black levels are very good, and shadow detail, very important in the film as so many of Johnny’s wanderings are nocturnal, is superb. The film has been divided into 41 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound mix puts the dialogue into the center channel (when decoded by Prologic) though you’re likely to flip on the subtitles during the sequence with the Scots couple who display heavy brogues that will be impenetrable for many unused to their speech patterns and inflections. The music by Andrew Dickson, as spiky and sharp as much of the dialogue, and the sound effects mix well and are rendered with good fidelity.



    Special Features

    4/5


    The audio commentary combines comments by director Mike Leigh, actress Katrin Cartlidge, and actor David Thewlis. They speak often and well about their experiences in making the film, what they feel it has for a modern audience, and its lack of commercial success in Britain (though it was an art house hit in major markets around the world and won Leigh the Best Director prize at Cannes).


    Playwright/filmmaker Neil LaBute speaks of his admiration for the movie in a 12 ¾-minute video piece filmed in 2005 and presented in 1080i. He compares Naked to some of the other films of Mike Leigh in discussing common themes shared by the films.


    The Art Zone: The Conversation” is a 36 ¾-minute conversation about the films of Mike Leigh featuring novelist Will Self and the director in a London pub in 2000. Their discussion which includes reference to many of the director’s previous film works though Topsy-Turvy is presented in 1080i.


    The Short and Curlies is a 1987 short film comedy which matched director Leigh and actor David Thewlis for the first time. It’s a delightful examination of the lives of two similarly aged young girls, one the daughter of a beautician who offers many different hair styles for the girl not her daughter. It’s in 1080i..


    The film’s theatrical trailer runs for 1 ½ minutes in 1080i.


    The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.


    The enclosed 17-page booklet contains cast and crew lists, a selection of color stills, and two exploratory essays on the movie by film critics Derek Malcolm and Amy Taubin.



    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average)


    As coruscating an examination of the human condition as many of the other films by Mike Leigh, Naked is an emotionally enervating if somewhat exhausting experience. The Blu-ray release ports over the bonus material from the previous DVD release, and with reference quality picture and excellent sound, the Blu-ray release comes with a firm recommendation for those who want something challenging and different.




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. JoshuaB.

    JoshuaB. Second Unit

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    Thanks for the thoughtful review, Matt! I still remember seeing Naked at an ex-girlfriend's house (paired with Withnail and I) many years ago (somehow a well-worn VHS tape late at night was appropos) and being mesmerized by it (and a little depressed, but hey, that's the power of cinema). Sadly, Karen Cartlidge isn't with us anymore and Thewlis has never had as juicy a film role as Johnny (apprently he's in the Harry Potter films, but I've never seen any of them), but I have followed Mike Leigh's career as a filmmaker and have enjoyed his work.
     

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