There has been only one film that has completely left me speechless. I know I have praised many films for being absolutely amazing, but almost no film elicits a response from me where I refuse to even sleep because of how intense the film was. That film was The Trial, and up until a few days ago, it was the only one that left me at a loss for words. However, Naked came along and did the exact same thing to me.
Mike Leigh has always, for me, been that filmmaker that is so supremely talented but we just refuse to acknowledge it and we just put him on the shelf. If Naked taught me anything, is that Leigh is probably one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Shakespeare adaptations are really common for filmmakers to attempt to make in some form or the other, but hardly any have actually created their own Shakespeare tales. Naked is probably the closest we will get to a modern day Shakespearean masterpiece. Who should we thank for this brilliance?
Leigh created this world and made it the way he did, but can he really get all the credit? A lot of this film’s brilliance is from the hard work of the actors, who gave these characters life. Without them (as the dialogue is the result of weeks and weeks of improvised rehearsal), there would be no film.
It boggles my mind when I think of why I like this film so much. It was so bleak and lifeless in style, but actually beyond the surface it is a warm, profound film with a wicked sense of humor. It seems a bit odd to say, because he essentially is a homeless, disgusting rapist, but Johnny is one charismatic character. Thewlis interprets Leigh’s creation as a upper-class intellectual in the body of a lower-class scumbag. It is a truly riveting performance, and clearly the Cannes Jury thought the same and bestowed its prestigious Best Actor prize upon Thewlis. It is one of the greatest performances in cinema ever, and one that is very difficult to top.
Naked is a panoply of oddities – a bitter, cruel and cynical look at the working class, and a huge leap from some of Leigh’s other work. I don’t think Leigh has ever gone this dark since, and I doubt he will again. It is a true oddity of a film, and one that is absolutely amazing and dumbfoundingly good.