|movie review: Naked
The film was made in 1993. the director was
Mike Leigh who also wrote the script. David
Thewlis plays the lead.The film was a hit, or
something of a hit, as much of a hit a film can
be that takes its cue from Sartre who said:
hell is other people. And David Thewlis who
plays Johnny says: there is good in the world
only because evil needs something to fuck
But it won a bunch of awards and deservedly
so. The script was a gem and David Thewlis
was phenomenal. I recently watched it
again—via Netflix streaming where else—and
here are some thoughts if you have yet to
Johnny is the movie and as I say the
performance by Thewlis is tremendous. He
leaps from the screen. Its one of those
rare films in which the perfect part finds the
perfect actor to play it—the role of a
lifetime—like DeNiro in Raging Bull, Brando in
Streetcar, George C Scott in Patton.
The character of Johnny can be described by
something Oscar Levant, actor, pianist and
wit said: There is a fine line between genius
and insanity and I have erased that line.
And also the words of Carmela Soprano, wife
to Tony, visiting the shrink: He’ll fuck
anything with a pulse.
Johnny is a talent and his greatest talent is
for getting on your nerves. Will Rogers never
met a person he didnt like and Johnny never
met a person he couldnt piss off. This leads to
a certain amount of conflict. He likes
conflict. It produces energy and relieves the
boredom--at least for the moment.
Johnnys gift is for talking. He has wit and a
phenomenal amount of information of all
kinds—useful and otherwise, percolating
around inside his skull that he enjoys trotting
out at a moments notice and its all delivered
in a highly worked up state, dripping with
irony, sarcasm or aggression or all three at
once. Its a show. Hes a Hitler type—the
rabble rousing bullshit artist type. The
difference is: Hitler knew what he wanted.
He was motivated. Johnny takes it one day—
or one conversation—at a time.
Johnny has his problems and they all derive
from a common source: women. He is
constantly crossing paths with these
creatures that he can easily do without
except when he needs to get laid—or borrow
a few quid. The results are predictable. They
meet, they have sex, they tangle. Its not
pretty. There is something about Johnny—a
deeply felt impulse to reward kindness with
humiliation. Its his nature.
The women: there are two, Louise and
Sophie. Louise is the girlfriend—ex-girlfriend.
Johnny is in flight from Manchester and the
enraged brother of a girl he mishandled—
you could put it that way—in an alley and he
arrives on Louises doorstep in London. Louise
isnt home but Sophie is so he fucks Sophie—a
punkster and anorexic with low--make that
zero--self esteem. They are at it on the couch
when Louise arrives.
Sophie: he’s a brilliant fucking geezer!
Louise: what are you doing here?
Johhnie. What are you doing here?
L: I live here.
J: It’s a shithole.
L: Why don’t you leave?
J: Why don’t you leave?
L: I thought ya never wanted to see me
J: I don’t want to see you again so will ya
L: You look like shit.
J: I'm just trying to blend in with the
Etc, etc. Romance-wise this is the high point
of the film.
A few days pass with more of the same—
screaming--and at some point Johnny packs
it in and takes refuge in the street where
more adventures occur of the same type—the
going back and forth to arrive nowhere type.
Archie he meets in one of the great non-
scenes in the history of film. Archie is 20 or
therbouts, a psychopath. We know he is a
psychopath because 1) he looks like one and
2) he acts like one. Here he comes hurtling
himself down the street and doing something
with his head, snapping it violently back and
forth from side to side like being whacked by
a giant invisible hand. It suggests a massive
tic applying itself not to a facial muscle but
the entire head including the neck. In other
words someone you are well advised to cross
the street to avoid but not Johnny because
he is a fellow psychopath, or sociopath, close
enough, so there exists a common ground for
Archie, screaming: MAGGIE!
Johnny: You all right chief?
J: Have you lost somebody?
A: (heavy Scots accent similar to cockney,
impenetrable): FUCKING (unintelligible)FUCK
OFF YA FUCKING CUNT!
A: GOT A FAG!
A: Giz one.
J: You’ve got a lovely way about you. Has
anyone ever told you that?
J: Shes gone mate. Those days are over.
A: (unintgelligible) YA (unintelligible) CUT YA
FUCKING HEAD OFF!
J: You from Scotland?
J: Whats it like up there?
A: (unintelligible) FUCKING SHITE.
J: I sent off for one of those Linguaphone
courses—talk shite in a fortnight. Its going
very well. I haven’t quite got the hang of the
transitive verbs yet.
A: WILL YA FUCKING SHUT IT!
They go back and forth for a bit. It turns out
Archie is on the lam, seems he put his dad in
the hospital—smashed him in the nuts with a
poker. Why says Johnny.
A: BECAUSE (unintelligible) FUCKER FUCKING
ASKED FOR IT!
J: So, what, is he in a bad way?
A:(unintelligible) fucking half fucking dead.
J: Hows your mother taking it?
A: SHE FUCKING (unintelligible) OFF HER
Mike Leigh has a gift to write about the
scumbag male character and in the character
of Jeremy he creates his masterpiece. Is
Jeremy homosexual, heterosexual or
bisexual? Its hard to say but either way of all
the words you could use to describe him the
kindest would be despicable. He makes
Johnny look wholesome.
Johnny is out wandering the streets when
Jeremy appears at the flat. He lets himself
in. He has a key. He is the landlord. He strips
to his black bikini briefs to reveal the whitest
of bodies and is lying there on the couch when
Sophie enters who starts screaming.
Sophie: Ya scared the living shit outta me!
Who are ya?
Jeremy: I’m Jeremy luv—who are you?
J: I like your tattoo. Did it hurt?
J: Good. Do you like fucking, Sophie?
S: Do you like wanking?
J: You have no tits Sophie. Have you ever
S: No, have you?
I wont describe the rest of the film—to give a
blow by blow account because you get the
idea and Naked isnt that kind of film—a linear
type film. Its a sequence of non-scenes
that could be shuffled about and rearranged
in a number of ways. Its a brutal film with a
handful of scenes you could do without
watching. Louise is the only person in the film
to resemble a normal human being and does
her best to apply some rehab to Johnny but
its a lost cause--the most lost of causes. She
persists in it all because love is blind.
I reccommend the film because its funny.
There is humor, quite dark but humor
nonetheless and dark humor is better than no
humor at all. And this is Mike Leighs gift--to
confuse the line between humor and despair.
That is the mark of an artist.
But yes its a brutal film so I will take some of
the curse off by leaving you with 3 fragments
1) Louise and Sophie are having tea and
Louise says: I don’t care about getting
married but I wouldnt say no to a proper
Sophie: Whats a proper relationship?
Louise: When somebody talks to ya after
they’ve bonked ya.
2) Johnny and Brian, security guard at an
Brian: Have you got nowhere to go then?
Johnny: I’ve got an infinite number of fucking
places to go. The problem is where you stay.
You with me?
B: Indeed. Yes.
J: So listen Brian, what is it that goes on in
this particular postmodernist gas chamber?
B: Nothing. It's empty.
J: So what is it that you're guarding then?
J: You’re guarding space?
J: That's stupid, isn't it, because someone
could break in here and steal all the fucking
space and you wouldn't know it had gone,
B: Good point.
Johnny bumps into Maggie, Archies bird who
has misplaced herself and they take a walk.
Johnny says: did you know that wherever
you are in London you’re only 30 feet from a