Naked: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Johnny (David Thewlis) has no home, he has no job, and he has no friends or family. His life is never the same for long, as he wanders the streets, with only his vision. He has had his hopes crushed and his dreams drowned by life before, so now, he lives by his own code. If he wants to have sex, he rapes a woman and if he needs to travel, he steals an automobile. He does both of these deeds before he ventures to London, where he plans to drop in on an old girlfriend. Soon, he strikes up a relationship of sorts with her flatmate Sophie (Katrin Cartlidge). He treats her like she is worthless, screams obscene things at her, and makes it hard for anyone around him to have a moment of peace. He is soon part of a group, some as desolate as himself, others who have been able to pull themselves out of life’s pitfalls. Are Johnny’s ramblings about life the truth, or is he simply unable to cope with what his life has become?

This is a bleak movie. I’ve seen a lot of bleak movies and without question, “Naked” is bleak. In “Naked”, Mike Leigh tosses all film conventions out the window, as he often does. The result is a movie that defies traditional limitations and pushes boundaries, which I think is always welcome. That does mean that narrative is off kilter, there is barely a storyline at all, in fact. Instead, we simply watch a few lives intertwine back and forth, without much plot movement. So if you need a story that well, tells a real story, then you won’t like “Naked”, as it just presents us with the characters and their lives. The subject matter is dark, very dark at times, but this is realistic, as life isn’t all bright sunshine. I do think “Naked” is a good movie, but by the same token, I wouldn’t want to watch it on a regular basis. That being said, even with Criterion’s wonderful release, “Naked” is more of a rental than a purchase. I know when we hear rental we think the film is mediocre, but in this case, for most people, once will be enough, even as good as “Naked” is.

Video: How does it look?

Criterion always takes pride in their films and “”Naked”” is certainly no exception. They did a fine job with the standard DVD release a few years back and they’ve upped the ante with their inaugural Blu-ray offering. The 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer looks as good as you might imagine. Granted, the movie is nearly twenty years old and this wasn’t a hatchling of a major studio so there is some grain evident in some, ok all, of the scenes. The black levels are mostly on target, though a tad inconsistent at times though contrast looks right on the mark. For those that have never seen the film, it does have a certain unique look to it – no doubt about it. Criterion has done their usual top notch job in regards to the transfer and that’s all we can ask for.

Audio: How does it sound?

Adding to the visuals, there’s also a new DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that adds a depth to the film. The previous standard DVD did sound ok, but I felt it bit flat at times which somewhat dated the movie. This new mix does add some depth to the movie and it does bring out the sound in Dickson’s magnificent score. Dialogue is spot on with no loss or distortion. This seems to have just the right amount of added sound to make the movie feel more natural, without overdoing it.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) we don’t get any new supplements with this Blu-ray release. All of the extras from the previous standard DVD have been ported over here. Ported over from Criterion’s laserdisc, the audio commentary track with director Mike Leigh and stars David Thewlis and Katrin Cartlidge is a real treat. Leigh goes into great depth about his technique on the film, especially how he wanted to develop the characters. The actors discuss Leigh’s on set methods also, which provides a different perspective. I enjoyed how much time was spent on the process of improvisation, then how that improvised material evolved on screen. This release also includes two interviews with Leigh, the director’s short film “The Short and Curlies”, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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