The great thing about DVDs produced under the Criterion moniker is that they can’t really be compared to much else. Usually, I can just whip out a peppy little monologue about the film I have just watched, but Criterion always makes things a bit more difficult… which is great for film fans that have seen it all before.
Naked is, of course, no different. There is no easy summation for this piece of art, which won awards for Best Actor and Best Director at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. This is … simply fantastic dark comedy, filled with superb performances and brilliantly witty dialog. While many American audiences live and die by the easy-to-follow plot, this is more of a collection of character studies, with Johnny (played by David Thewlis) serving as the tour guide. Microcosms of relationships, criminal minds, malicious intent and the curse of intelligence are all explored here, in a film that may severely expand the viewer’s beliefs about those that live on the fringe of society, and their own lives.
This is a surprisingly full audio track, considering the fact that the audio is only presented in the original stereo. Some viewers may be turned off by the very thick British accents, but the investment in training your ear is well worth it.
On the more technical side, the track seems to essentially be in two channel mono, as the sounds appear to come equally from both front speakers. The low end is pretty decent, but there are only rare times that it is really needed (passing cars, the score and the like). On the whole, I would say that this is a quality audio presentation that faithfully and accurately supports the film.
This film has been completely restored in a high definition digital transfer, supervised by the director. The picture does have a bit of a washed-out look to it, but it is clean, and accurate to the age of the film. There are no instances of scratches, dust or excessive grain here to speak of. Black levels are deep, and there are no artifacts from the film’s transfer to digital.
There are some nice quality extras on this two-disc set. First up is a feature length audio commentary by director Mike Leigh, and actors David Thewlis and Katrin Cartlidge. It seems like every DVD on the market today has a commentary track or two on it, and most of them are a complete waste of time. On a disc like this, however, a commentary track is a goldmine. This is a film that prompts discussion, so you might as well start that discussion with the insightful actors and directors.
Two short essays are included in the booklet, one by Derek Malcolm and one by Andy Taubin, both well-respected film critics. The brevity of the essays should not be misconstrued as making them lack for quality, as they both bring valuable insight to the film. The theatrical trailer is also included, which is always much appreciated.
There are two different featurettes here as well. One is an episode of The Conversation, a BBC program with author Will Self interviewing Leigh. The other is an interview with filmmaker Neil LaBute, director of another groundbreaking film, In The Company of Men. In this piece, LaBute shares his insights into the film, much as film historians discuss the classic films of the 1950’s.
Finally, there is the inclusion of a short film called The Short and Curlies, a comedy directed by Leigh and starring Thewlis. This is great, because short films are one of those things that would be lost forever if they weren’t saved on a DVD such as this one.
As Criterion almost always does, this is one of those films that I can’t believe I have never seen, much less heard of. This is a piece of cinema that hits on all of the things that make film great; comedy, philosophy, drama, sarcasm, artistic statements and the state of society. This is not just film for the sake of entertainment, this is film as a life-changing event. This is the very purpose and worth of the artistic medium of film.
Special Features List
- Audio commentary by director Mike Leigh and actors David Thewlis and Katrin Cartlidge
- Exclusive new video interview with filmmaker Neil LaBute
- The Conversation, a BBC program with author Will Self interviewing Leigh
- Original theatrical trailer
- New essays by film critics Derek Malcolm and Andy Taubin
- The Short and Curlies a short comedy from 1987 directed by Leigh and starring Thewlis