I’m not going to pretend that I’m some old school fan of Naked since its original release almost twenty years ago; the honest truth is that this one got by me during my early-mid nineties indie film buffet. I didn’t first see the film until many years later, after working on the set of the Ultimate Film Fanatic television show and meeting then judge Henry Rollins. Rollins had many a suggestion of films I should check out, and Naked was on that list.
I was, and still am, blown away by the film. David Thewlis gives the performance of a lifetime as brilliant, though crude and rude, Johnny, and I can’t help but wonder how my life would’ve been different had I seen it in my more impressionable years. Maybe if I saw Naked instead of Clerks, I’d be a dirty, homeless rogue spouting philosophy. As it is, I was a video store manager who became a filmmaker then a film festival employee and then a film writer (is that how the curve of artistic failure looks, perhaps). Through it all, film fan, however.
It is as a film fan that I’ve always embraced the Criterion Collection efforts. Though I never owned a laserdisc player, I coveted the collections of those who did, especially if they had the original Trainspotting Criterion release. Once DVD rolled around, I was managing a video store and able to stock exactly what I wanted, and my particular shop was loaded with Criterion releases (I treated the store’s inventory as if it were my own personal collection; great, until I quit and moved away). All that said, while I’ve seen many a Criterion release, I missed Naked until this Blu-Ray. All that means is that I can’t compare Criterion releases for you, give you “this is worth buying twice or not” type of opinion. What I can do, however, is say that Naked is worth owning period, and if you don’t already have a copy, definitely pick up the Blu-Ray.
This edition boasts commentary from writer/director Mike Leigh and actors David Thewlis and Katrin Cartlidge, a video interview with Neil LaBute, an episode of the BBC’s The Art Zone with a Mike Leigh interview, a Mike Leigh short comedy from 1987 called The Short and Curlies (also starring David Thewlis) and the usual booklet of essays about the film, in this case by Amy Taubin and Derek Malcolm.
Again, I can’t with firsthand knowledge tell you whether this is exactly like the Criterion DVD release from 5 or 6 years ago or not (the transfer is most likely not), and a cursory look at the DVD release mentions similar special features on Amazon (though no The Short and Curlies), so I apologize for not being more helpful to the consumer looking to potentially re-purchase. I still think it is worth having in your personal collection. Hell, even if it’s a bit too dark and bleak for your tastes, the performance by Thewlis alone makes this a must-have. Break it out some night and show it to friends who only know Thewlis for his Professor Lupin days with Harry Potter, and be prepared to pick brain matter off your couch when their minds blow.