Naked ★★★★½

"Was I bored? No, I wasn't fuckin' bored. I'm never bored. That's the trouble with everybody – you're all so bored. You've 'ad nature explained to you, and you're bored with it. You've 'ad the living body explained to you, and you're bored with it. You've 'ad the universe explained to you, and you're bored with it. So now you just want cheap thrills and like plenty of 'em, and it dun matter 'ow tawdry or vacuous they are as long as it's new, as long as it's new, as long as it flashes and fucking bleeps in forty different colours."

Dante's Inferno has nothing on Mike Leigh's soul destroying polemic through the dank nocturnal streets of London. Everything in Naked is rotting from the inside out, both the environments and the people which inhabit them—it's a brutal and disturbing film but one simultaneously overflowing with humanity and compassion.

David Thewlis as Johnny gives one of the great screen performances I've ever seen and this is no hyperbole, the commitment and dedication to the role is simply awe-inspiring, it's the sort of lived in character that can't just be read from a script but must be thoroughly inhabited. It opens with our antihero raping a women and the depravity only continues as this vagabond torments the people he encounters with nihilism and despair. It paints a horrific portrait of homelessness, alienation and existential dread—Johnny's tirades are filled with babble but also enormous intellect and scathing wit and typically for Leigh the film can have you howling with laughter one moment then horrified the next.

It's a punishing experience but also a cathartic one, some socio-political understanding of Britain and its class system always helps to contextualise with Leigh's work but this film has a more universal appeal. The title Naked is a fitting description of the characters within it, these are people living uninhibited, who hold nothing back, do exactly what they want and say exactly what they mean—Johnny in particular could be interpreted as a symbolic creation, perhaps he's the devil incarnate or just the embodiment of everything wrong with society. An astonishing achievement.

Criterion Channel.

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