Thursday, November 23, 2006

"I want something's flesh!"

Children are never too young to be introduced to the delights of Richard E. Grant drinking lighter fluid and shouting "Fork it!", so yesterday my eight-month-old Charlotte and I watched Withnail and I. That is, I watched it while she crawled around on the floor, banging wooden blocks together and singing gibberish. She did stop to watch the bit where the bull chases Marwood and the bit where Withnail is trying to catch fish by drunkenly firing a shotgun into a creek. Fortunately I decided against playing the Withnail and I drinking game. Charlotte can't handle her liquor.

Withnail gets better every time I see it. For the first hour or so, practically every line is brilliant and the delivery even better. The final act drifts into tragicomedy, and is reasonably successful. The first, and probably second and third, times I saw the film I was disappointed by the ending. Now I can see how showing the disolution of the fragile relationship between Withnail and Marwood is the only possible ending, and one presaged quite early. The final scenes are excellent. The shot of Withnail standing in the pissing rain telling Marwood he'll miss him is lovely and sad, Grant's face like that of a frightened, unusually stubbly little boy. Then he quotes Hamlet at a bunch of bored wolves! You don't get that sort of thing in just any film.

It is a pity the original novel has never been published. Robinson wrote it in 1969, the same year the story is set. Apparently the novel ends with Withnail pouring wine into the barrel of a shotgun then firing it as he drinks from it. I'm glad Robinson rewrote the ending for the film, leaving Withnail's fate ambiguous. He probably just went home and drank himself to death - much more cheerful.

6 comments:

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

oh Lordy, I'm really glad they didn't use that ending... how depressing. I didn't even really want to know that - far better to leave it hanging. as you say, he probably does drink himself to death but it's nice to consider the possibility that this could be a turning point for Withnail. also, even though the film focusses on Withnail for so much of the time, it really is about Marwood and his relationship with Withnail, so to end on Withnail's death seems sort of wrong.

but then, I always wish for the nice ending.

Ampersand Duck said...

Last weekend our imminently-dying-to-be-resurrected-as-a-Dendy-local-independent-cinema (gasp) showed Withnail and I on the big screen! Glorious. Such a good film. Good for you for showing Charlotte the Uncle Monty types before it's too late :)

Anonymous said...

Clinical studies have proven that Withnail bellowing in the rain in the zoo as the 60's crumble around him is only 6% less cheerful than Hi-5 telling us that we 'are some kind of wonderful'.

All in all, near perfect substitutes...

Zoe said...

Last weekend our imminently-dying-to-be-resurrected-as-a-Dendy-local-independent-cinema (gasp) showed Withnail and I on the big screen! Glorious. Such a good film.

WHY WAS I NOT TOLD ABOUT THIS?

I'm going to buy this fucking place and install a jukebox.

*kicks wall*

Anonymous said...

A child should always be on hand whenever Withnail & I drinking games are undertaken. You know why.

Adam said...

watched it again last year when we bought it on dvd. hadn't seen it since our 20s. cringed a bit when we remembered aspiring to be like them. loved monty more than ever.