Naked ★★★★★

96/100

[originally written on my blog]

Nonstop dazzling, both as logorrheic assault ("I sent off for one of those little Linguaphone packages, 'Talk Shite in a Fortnight.' It's all going very well. I haven't quite got the hang of the transitive verbs yet...") and as a stygian tour of London's underclass, with its infinite manifestations of sodden misery. Thewlis placed second in the Skandies poll for best performance of the '90s, and was robbed; there's never been a more incisive portrait of scabrous wit as defense mechanism, which is to say that no other actor has ever achieved such a sustained simultaneous peak of exhilaration | valley of depression. It's like watching an Olympic diver perform a double somersault tuck into the Grand Canyon. Minor speedbump for me has always been Jeremy/Sebastian, and Cruttwell still strikes me as overly cartoonish in a way that makes the character's viciousness too easy to dismiss. But now that I've watched Leigh stumble into implicit didacticism—first with Happy-Go-Lucky, and then even more egregiously with Another Year—I can see that he intends Jeremy/Sebastian (the dual identity is significant) not as a means of making Johnny seem more palatable by comparison, as I'd feared, but as an illustration of what Johnny would look like stripped of such mollifying attributes as intelligence, humor and poverty. (Which is still a tad scold-y, but it doesn't overwhelm this film the way it does his recent work.) As with most masterpieces, there are moments here that wreck me for reasons I can't remotely articulate—most powerful this time around were the movie's final words, though I never realized until now that they are its final words. Sandra the nurse, fluttering about, chronically incapable of finishing a sentence, struggling to cope with the mess she's just returned to. "Enough. I've had...enough. It comes at me...from all angles. You. All of you just... It's the tin lids. When... How will the world...ever...?" And then Johnny's typically cheeky suggestion—"End?"—and the unexpected intensity with which this minor character, introduced only a few minutes earlier, exclaims "YES!" In this film of endless jabber, it's the last thing anyone says.