Sunday, December 04, 2005

Naked (1993)

Corrosive slab of misanthropy, with David Thewlis giving a career-defining performance as the hyperintelligent, hyperhateful Johnny. Thewlis goes a long way to keep this from feeling wearying, but what really makes it transcend to the realms of indispensibility is the way director Mike Leigh contextualizes Johnny's viciousness, so his initially aimless vitriol comes with a social and emotional construct. Johnny may be a bastard, but there's a buried sense of self-awareness that lends a pathetic edge to his rantings: He tears people apart with his words, but he needs people to hear those words anyway. He seeks out that which he hates, presumably as an extension of his own self-loathing, and it makes the character queasily fascinating. There's also a political dimension, as Johnny's low-class misanthropy is contrasted with the significantly colder manipulations of Jeremy the landlord. Johnny's actions put one in mind of George Carlin's proclamtion that he doesn't hate mankind, he's just disappointed by it; however, Jeremy's actions show no such tempering. (The message seems to be that the heartless brand of government created by Thatcherism breeds this kind of mindset on both sides of the social ladder, with the rich fucking everyone because they can and the poor fucking themselves and each other because there's nobody else they can fuck.) Bracing, compelling, devastating, possessed of some of the best acting you'll see anywhere... this film is truly amazing.

Grade: A


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