Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Don't threaten me with a dead fish.

Yes kids, I'm going to once again speak of the virtues of the greatest film of all-time, Bruce Robinson's "Withnail and I." Why do I love it so much? Why does anybody? There's no plot, it looks as though it were made for television, but there's just something about it. If there's a film out there that is more quotable I'd be stupefied. If there is a better moment than Withnail demanding "finest wines available to humanity," well then I'll eat my hat. (Not literally, but hey, I like the saying, "I'll eat my hat." It's underused in present day society. If I'd lived in the Great Depression I'd have heard it all the time. Probably would have gotten sick of it. Because you see, cliches and catch phrases...Oh....Oh, I'm sorry. Now I've gone off onto a tangent about hat eating. It's terrible really. Sometimes you just get started and you can't stop. Oh, and I'm still inside parentheses. I must really do something about that.) There. That's better.
So yeah, why do I love it so much? Besides its endless quotability, it's so perfectly performed. Honestly if you're an aspiring screenwriter, actor, or director you owe it to yourself to watch this movie repeatedly. For writers, the dialogue is superb and the comedy is based entirely in character. There's not a "joke" in sight. For actors, Richard E. Grant (Withnail), Paul McGann (I), and Richard Griffiths (Uncle Monty) are all case studies in perfection. It was Grant's first film and he's a non-drinker. You'd never know either to watch his performance. McGann is so subtle. It would be easy for him to get lost amidst Grant's theatricality (which was absolutely right for his character) or Griffiths', well...Montyness, but his work is every bit as impressive as the others in the less showy role. And I can't forget Ralph Brown for his two scenes as Danny the Drug Dealer. You'll want to access the subtitles for him but it's worth it.
For directors, "Withnail" is a lesson in simplicity. You don't have to have sweeping camera movements and use angles that call attention to themselves. You don't have to show off.
After a minor ordeal I was finally able to watch the features on my region 2 disc yesterday. Great stuff. The Bruce Robinson commentary alone would have made it worth while.
I guess in the end the reason I rate "Withnail and I" so highly, and why it has such a lasting effect on me is that there's such an underlying sadness to it. It's a hilariously funny film, but the sadness of it sort of slowly reveals itself. It's so subtle that it manages to sneak up on me every time. It's about these two friends finally going their separate ways, one with a future and one without. Many writers and directors would have forced that point, but Robinson doesn't want to beat us over the head. It's a movie that got into my head four and a half years ago and has been there ever since. Forget the desert island. This is the movie I'd need to have with me if I were stuck alone in a cottage having "gone on holiday by mistake."

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