Tony Whitehead
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‘The future is now’
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This chapter focuses on Leigh's feature film, Naked, which remains his bleakest and angriest work, as well as his most controversial. It also marked his breakthrough to international recognition, and a shift in his career whereby each of his subsequent films were different, in style or subject matter or both. This chapter emphasizes that in any event anyone who thought they had Leigh safely compartmentalized as a shrewd commentator on lower-middle-class suburban repressions and preoccupations would have been particularly taken aback by Naked. Naked's themes arise credibly from the characters' lives and attitudes, which are treated with a complexity and ambiguity consistent with Leigh's other work and with the ways in which one reacts to people in life outside the movies. It was the kind of film that leaves one feeling drained as much on its leading actor's behalf as by the verbal battering he is given. For its admirers, though, it was exhilarating as well as exhausting.

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