Withnail & I

Recommend, or reminisce about, film and television

Withnail & I

Postby Gavin » 23 May 2012, 12:59

A few weeks ago I watched the film Withnail & I again. Here is the music used in its opening frames, as "I" (Paul McGann) walks around the shambolic Camden flat the two out of work actors occupy.



This viewing was first time I had watched the film since I originally saw it, many years ago. Various things struck me. It is poignant and funny, but I remember when I first saw it I was far more impressionable. I kind of admired Withnail, played by Richard E. Grant, with his eloquent swearing. For some reason this was impressive and everything was eminently quotable and quite funny.

Watching it now, it was all so different. The bitter in the "bittersweet" was more prominent. Withnail is a tragic character, really pathetic. It is good that "I" (Marwood) gets out, just as the character Renton does in the film Trainspotting (whose glamour I also to some degree bought at the time). Incidentally, re. Trainspotting, Dalrymple explicitly mentioned that its depiction of the difficulty of heroin withdrawal is grossly exaggerated.

I even lived in a flat in Camden years ago, and thought I was quite "cool" for doing so. But actually, it was just a dump. It just goes to show how impressionable youth can be, and why we should call things as they really are. For clips from Withnail & I see here.
Gavin
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Re: Withnail & I

Postby Elliott » 23 May 2012, 16:19

Gavin, I think you are being a bit unfair on the film.

Of course it has a lot of swearing, but I think it would be a mistake to write it off on that account. There is much more going on.

The two main characters, even as they live a debauched existence, swear a lot, read trashy tabloid news, and eat rubbish food, are fully aware of what this all means: there is a cultural decline in Britain, and they are part of it, and the 1960s revolution has only made things worse. I think they are both acutely aware of this. Indeed, it seems to me that the core of Withnail's problem is that the new world has no use for someone like him, somebody cultured and refined and well-read. Ultimately, the middle-class Marwood is able to deal with the situation and turn himself around, but the aristocrat is doomed.

Uncle Monty is a walking antique, and he knows it, hence his defeatist attitude underneath the cheeriness - but for Withnail, he is still a young man in his prime and he is struggling to accept that he was born 100 years too late. (Of course, with the film's original ending, he simply couldn't accept it.)

Withnail & I is one of my favourite films. I consider it excellent, an absolute gem.

The trouble is that it has an audience who don't deserve it, and who turn it into something lower than it is. I'm talking about stupid students with their "Withnail drinking game" and mindlessly shrieking "get in the back of the van!" etc. as if that means they have in any way appreciated or understood the source. But we shouldn't - mustn't - let that dilute what is a tremendously thoughtful, well-written, well-acted and well-made film (all IMHO, of course!).
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Re: Withnail & I

Postby Gavin » 30 Jan 2013, 00:54

Amusing scene, one among many...

Gavin
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Location: Once Great Britain


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