Friday, August 15, 2008


This week sees the release on DVD of one of my favourite British films, Naked. This was the film which launched David Thewlis's career in 1993, establishing him as a fine screen actor with international credentials. His performance as a Mancunian misanthrope quite rightly got him awards at Cannes but he was far too strong a cup of tea for the Oscars that year. (He was edged out by Tom Hanks for his performance in 'Forrest Gump'. Jesus.) The film was directed by Mike Leigh. It was his breakthrough as a film director although British audiences had known him for years as the man behind 'Abigail's Party'.

I've seen it twice, once at a cinema in Salford - no better place to see it - and once on a DVD (I think the Guardian gave it away and I madly lent it to someone). It's a kind of two hour post Thatcherite rant with a deeply disturbed Thewlis prowling London's underbelly. As with all Leigh's films the performances are created by improvisation, over hours, before the camera exposes an inch of film. Thewlis was nearly arrested after fighting 'in character' outside Leigh's office. He shoplifted, again 'in character', to provide props for the film. It is a difficult film to watch, and I would imagine it posed a massive headache for the people trying to market it. Thewlis himself admits his character took him over to a dangerous degree.

I'm going to buy the DVD but watching it now will be a bitter sweet experience. There's a superb performance by Katrin Cartlidge, at that time an up and coming British actress. She died tragically early, from emphysema and pneumonia, at the age of 41.

Here's a scene from the film with Thewlis at large with a security man in an empty office building. Hanks eat your heart out.

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