Sunday, July 24, 2005

Withnail and I


I'm sure that everyone must have encountered a Withnail and I obsessive at one time or other. You know the type. They've watched the film fifty times and have memorised the entire script. They regale you with tales of the Withnail drinking game (you have a drink whenever they do) and are fond of quoting their favourite lines ad nauseum. There's only so often that you can hear someone opine that "We want the finest wines known to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now" and still find it amusing.

I think that they're missing the point. The film is of course scabrously funny, and Grant's Withnail is a splenetic comic creation of absolute genius. There's something else though. Throughout the entire film there is an undertow of despair and depression.

Withnail is on the edge of drug and drink induced oblivion. Paranoiac, self-centred to the point of psychopathy, he is fully aware of his absolute failure as an artist. We know that his future is bleak; that he is engaged in a cycle of self-destruction that will end in death. When we leave him orating a soliloquy from Hamlet to the tigers in Regents Park as the rain pours on his crumpled umbrella, we know that he has no future. It is incredibly poignant.

Withnail and I is an elegy to the death of the 1960's. The hope and aspirations of that decade are crumbling into dust. It illustrates that the '60's dream was a chimaera; that the Britain of that era was in reality a sordid, shabby dump.

The McGann character cuts his hair, puts on a trilby, and moves on into the bright uplands of the future. Their will be no such escape for Withnail.


7 comments:

Sniffy said...

I LOVE this film! Richard E Grant is superb as the neurotic, alcholic, Withnail, wasn't it - I modelled myself on this character for a while.

"Monty, you fucking cunt!" has to be the best line in any film - EVER!

Why haven't I got this on DVD? Because I'm a useless twat. Thanks for reminding me about it.

garfer said...

I like the bit when Withanil leans out of the Jag and yells 'scrubbers' at the schoolgirls.
'Fuck off Grandad!'.

Sniffy said...

Ah yes indeed, film heaven is encapsulated in Withnail and I.

Herge Smith said...

Bloody hell - another corker.

I agree, the best bit is 'scrubbers...'

Although I quit like the bit where Withnail says 'What fucker said that?'

See , that's trouble Garfer - like you said, you start talking about it and suddenly it's quotation time.

It is an exceptionally squalid film - you feel like you need a good bath by the time it ends.

Great post - I thought you said sometime back you'd be too lazy to blog??

Wyndham said...

I know what you mean about Withnail - doesn't "I", his hair shorn, go off into the army or something at the end. If Withnail's not a man going through a nervous breakdown - much like Dirty Harry Callaghan - then I don't know who is.

I know a lot of Withnail bores who go on about the Camberwell Carrot who have never been near a spliff in their life.

My favourite line: "I must have you, even if it's by burglary!"

garfer said...

Three comments and three additional Withnail quotes. Bravo!
A gold star to each of you.

MHN for short said...

Hey Garf!
Hadn't heard of this one here in the states, but that's not saying much. Will have to send Dave on a hunting expedition for this flick. It sounds pretty good.