Once in awhile you discover gems from the past, but this once-in-awhile concept of time just seems to happen less and less frequently these days, so I am absolutely thrilled when it actually does. History: I remember reading about the British cult film “Withnail & I” in a Q magazine in the early nineties, and being impressed by the praises heaped. I had not heard a word about this film before – and not really afterwards, either… neither had anyone else – it seems to be a closely guarded secret of the British Isles. But I never forgot about it, and I am glad I didn’t. More than a decade later I buy it on dvd from play.com.
Withnail & I came out in 1987, produced by G Harrison. (Bless you, George). It is about two unemployed actors in London, late 1960s, who drown their frustration in booze, pills and lighter fluid. When Withnail’s Uncle Monty offers his cottage in the country, they escape the squalor of their horrible flat. They soon realize it is a mistake.
Withnail & I is hilarious, but at the same time insanely intelligent… and the craft of acting is wonderful, with every face in complete synchronicity with emotion, all the way along the watchtower. There is deep beauty in this light misery. Just listen to the British accent of Richard E. Grant (Withnail), every syllable licking your ear, confidently and elegantly wasted. It also comes with a matching soundtrack.
Buy it and do it now. Bruce Robinson’s semi-autobiographical tale is art, pure art, a supersplendid riot.