Withnail & I [Blu-ray]
REVIEWED BY: Bionicmanenator Posted on 07/06/2010
If you call yourself a true cult movie fan and haven’t seen this British low-rent masterpiece, log out of this website, don your roughest tweed coat to brave the winter chills and go buy yourself a copy immediately. It has just been re-released to the Blu-ray market, so is easy to find to get you up to speed.
For those that need a reminder, Withnail & I follows two out-of-work actors, Marwood (Paul McGann) and Withnail (Richard E. Grant), drinking away their existence while trying to find inspiration, drugs, booze and “toilet-trading” in London at the end of the 60s. Their adventures bring them into contact with many colourful characters, terrible weather, belligerent cattle and a jaunt to the countryside to stay with “Uncle” Monty who has promised them funding, liquor and more besides.
Both McGann and Grant are incredible in once-in-a-lifetime performances of the titular characters. Such an odd couple has there scarce been since nor likely to be again and their chemistry is such that this weekend jaunt in the wet British countryside is rendered near perfect. Each has their own brilliant moments of sheer paranoia, drunken rambling and downtrodden belligerence. Every inch of character is truly observed, fantastically Sheakspearean in scope and the truest examples of method acting at its finest.
The rest of the cast take their roles on with relish and make this bleak meagre world so believable – Michael Elphick as a threatening Irishman, Daragh O’Malley as a screaming bar-patron. Ralph Brown’s Danny takes up a mere ten minutes of screen time, but stops the show with his drug-fucked excess and laconic attitude early in the film – a role he went on to imitate several times, notably in Wayne’s World 2. Richard Griffiths’ Uncle Monty is lecherous, pompous and desperate in his excess – perfectly observed and punctuated by some beautiful moments of improvisation.
This new twentieth-anniversary Blu-ray release beautifully transfers the original negative elements to their true glory for the home market. Maybe a little too clean a tidy-up for this reviewer, I would much rather witness a film like this unspool in a cinema on its original 35mm with time worn scratching and popping, but as a record of late-sixties/seventies British lifestyle, it really is quite vivid in its gloomy sense of despair.
Audio commentaries on the disc allow the film to speak for itself but are fascinating insights into the depth of characterisation of the leads (McGann and Ralph Brown) and the myriad problems in creating such a well loved work and rendering of this particular world (director Bruce Robinson). There is also an excellent interview with Robinson and a couple of lovingly-crafted fan documentaries to add to the interest of the feature as well as the landscape of the countryside in which it was filmed. The “Swear-A-Thon” extra is hilarious.
Withnail & I has really cleaned up well for this new transfer and is still as relevant as ever, speaking in its particular vernacular to a working class, tea-drinking, drugged-up British culture that many of us can still relate to now.
DIRECTOR(S): Bruce Robinson | COUNTRY: United Kingdom | YEAR 1987 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Umbrella | RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 16:9 | REGION: A, B and C | DISCS: 1
Order through WOW HD and recieve a 5% Cinemania fan discount on every order