Naked (1993) – Mike Leigh (Friday’s Finest)

Naked is a dark and confronting black-comedy film about a violent sex offender in London. This vagabond Johnny who wanders the streets expounding his world view at length to anyone who will listen is a detestable, but loquacious intellectual. I watched this film plenty when it first came out and I was captivated by its temerity in exposing without pretences the clandestine world of this depraved individual.

It’s a film that portrays relentlessly and unflinchingly a side of our character which we’d prefer to simply sweep under the carpet. It takes everything that is immoral, degenerate and depraved in modern society and smears it all over the screen in a grubby orgy of loathing. I can’t say a lot about the plot because, well, there isn’t a great deal of plot to speak of. So what is it? I’ll tell you what it is: it’s the honesty of it. The brutal, searing, sickening honesty. Naked definitely lives up to its title.

IMDB Storyline: Johnny flees Manchester for London, to avoid a beating from the family of a girl he has raped. There he finds an old girlfriend, and spends some time homeless, spending much of his time ranting at strangers, and meeting characters in plights very much like his own.

As Johnny walks around London he meets Brian, a security guard (see video at end of this post) who looks after an empty office building at night, which Johnny calls “the most F/&king tedious job in England“, while planning to move to a seaside cottage in the future. Their dialogue is why I go to see movies.

Man isn't the be-all and fucking end-all.

Look, if you take the whole of time,

represented by one year..

we're only in the first few moments

of the first of January.

There's a long way to go.

Only now we're not gonna sprout

extra limbs and wings and fins...

because evolution itself is evolving.

And whereas you, through some process

of extrasensory recall...     

might imagine that you were some...

I don't know... some seventeenth-century Dutch in a windmill in old Amsterdam...

one day you'll realize that you've had not

just one or two past or future existences...
but that you were, and are, everybody

and everything that has ever been...

or will ever be.

The scenes between Johnny and Brian came from an an eight-hour improvisation. Other than being so awkwardly funny, they bounce off each other in a dance of thought and doubt. It’s a staggering performance from David Thewlis who along with the director Mike Leigh won their respective award categories at Cannes.

You might recognise the then-unknown Thewlis in the Coen Borthers The Big Lebowsky scene where the Dude says to Maude – ‘What the f(%k is with this guy?’

According to wikipedia: Leigh first had the idea for the story while a student in Manchester in the early 1960s: “We had a very enlightened teacher who endlessly reminded us that the next total eclipse would be in August 1999. Later I started thinking about the millennium and the end of the world. In 1992 the millennium was impending, so I brought that idea to the film...

Leigh’s method, as in all his character dramas, consisted of elaborate improvisational rehearsals with the cast to develop the characters’ background stories and traits. The actors interacted with the outside world and each other while in character until Leigh told them to come out of character and be themselves. The dialogue produced from these interactions was then edited, or “distilled”, to form the script, based on a minimal plot outline by Leigh.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Movies and TV
6 comments on “Naked (1993) – Mike Leigh (Friday’s Finest)
  1. That was a captivating extra.

  2. Extract – not extra – f(%k it.

  3. Had this on the rewatch list for a while. I liked it when it first came out. Im a Leigh fan.

    • It’s on my rewatch list as well. I haven’t seen it for decades. I’ve been meaning to watch Turner for a long time. Which movies do you recommend from him?

      • Like a lot of other directors, Im working my way through his work. The only films Ive seen are this one, Secrets and Lies (watched a couple times) and Turner. Liked them all to want to watch more. Have meant to see more of them but so many other films to watch.

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