Naked (1993)

It’s not just slash and trash that keeps me interested. Most of what I watch actually falls outside of either category. I do love European film and Mike Leigh’s work is no exception. This one is a rough go for me. Johnny is a character that hits a bit too close to home at times. He’s an irascible fellow who is never at ease with anything, especially himself. He flees Manchester after a violent sexual encounter leaves him less than welcome at the house where he’s flopping and heads to an ex-girlfriends house in London in a stolen car. He plows his way through his ex’s roommate and reconciles with his ex to a degree. He becomes restless and heads into the London night casting about for anyone who will listen to the fruits of his voracious reading and contemplation. When you’re on the dole you have plenty of time to think.

He meets a Scots couple who have no appreciation for his wit or sarcasm. He meets his counterpart in Brian the security guard who guards empty space and has an appreciation for his existential locutions. The only real difference between the two being the guard claims his job provides too much security while Johnny is hopelessly adrift with none.

Johnny sums up his life’s philosophy as he rattles off “I have no future. No one has a future.” And when he’s in danger of attaining some sense of normalcy and security he rushes out of the trap into early hour of dawn casting about for his next ear willing or otherwise.

Johnny is a self destructive, curious, misogynistic, chain smoking, intellectual conspiracist with a penchant for violent sex. The character burns with an insatiable yet dark exuberance brought to life in brilliant form by David Thewlis. Mike Leigh shows a sure and deft hand as Johnny careens through the London night, frequently pausing in doorways and stairwells for brief moments of intimacy, clarity and sometimes even self realization.

The great performances, disaffected characters and the staccato pop of the machine gun dialogue make it well worth the 131 minutes. Check it out.

Emanuelle in America (1977)

Sleaze auteur Joe D’Amato pulls out all the stops for this sex filled romp featuring Black Emanuelle, Laura Gemser, as a New York City based, globe trotting photojournalist who moonlights as an erotic fashion photographer.

Emanuelle uses her charm and other assets as she goes undercover to expose sex slavery, aristocrats, politicians, high end brothels and more. Each assignment is hush, hush and more dangerous than the last allowing the film to hurtle recklessly from location to location in travelogue fashion. She finds herself in search of some real monsters so she ends up in Washington D.C. to try and break a ring of snuff film producers.

From a surprise encounter with a jealous and sexually repressed boyfriend of one of her models to a surprise roofie from a senator and a trip to a third world snuff film factory Emanuelle’s and D’Amato’s cameras never blink. Mondo Macabro presents the film completely uncut for better or horse.

D’Amato goes completely off the rails with this one. He lets every inspiration play out and shows no restraint at all. The faux snuff film is something dreadful to behold and the cynicism and nihilism underpinning the story from start to finish give it the gnawing dread of a horror film more so than the soft focus eroticism of your usual Em(m)anuelle film —is there such a thing?