This review from GScene Magazine is online but I can't seem to make a "hotlink" to it (sorry, Crooked, I seem to be the dimmest Forum member ever) so here's the text.
Withnail and I , that great cult film, still fascinates and intrigues, twenty years after its first low-key release in the eighties.
I remember the first time I saw this scruffy, rambling slightly mad film and thought it rubbish, and then it squatted in my imagination for ages until I got to see it again.
Second time round it was amazing, it’s like a British ‘Harold and Maud’, the more you see it the more you see. But why is this? Why is this film so loved (and, one must ask by whom or by what)? Maisie Robson, the author is an expert on the film and tenderly dissects it like a corpse on Michelangelo’s autopsy table, not to savage but to expose the astonishing subtle and hidden mechanisms of what makes this film so endlessly fascinating.
Withnail and the Romantic Imagination: a Eulogy examines the film as both a serious work of art and a cultural phenomenon and it does this in a most delightful critical way. It’s like having your very own media lecturer with you discussing various aspects of the films and lifting all the mouldering carpets, pushing opening creaking doors and letting the light of analysis flood this crepuscular film. If this sounds heavy then take my word for it, it’s not, it’s written with love and this allows some of the academic conclusions to be delightfully insightful.
The central characters - Withnail, Marwood, Monty and Danny - are analysed in detail and related to the career changing performances of actors Richard E Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths and Ralph Brown, as well as to their own cultural hinterland, situated as they are in September 1969 at the end of the greatest decade in the history of mankind. (which was news to be as I thought the film was set in the 80’s). Uncle Monty’s chapter and the dissection of the ‘bedroom scene’ is a lovely tender piece and brought a whole new poignant meaning to what was (up till now) only a cringworthy and funny scene for me. The setting of the film in it's cultural and social space is explained well and with a deft grace.
The author is obviously a huge fan herself and this peek-a-boo look from behind the curtains of a slightly obsessive fan is what gives this book it’s compelling delight. It’s a real curates egg of a book, like the film itself.
Generations not yet born when Withnail and I was made continue to be recruited into the 'cult' of the film's devotees. There are pilgrimages to the film's central location, a derelict building in Cumbria, where passages from the screenplay are recited and inscribed on the security fencing. Records of these ceremonies are uploaded into cyberspace. Folk know the lines, or roll the ‘carrots’ even if they’ve never seen it.
It’s part of our zeitgeist and author Maisie Robson gives a close reading of the filmic text and screenplay, explaining how the film works its magic and also why the words, music, and visual beauty are all important in the film.
The soundtrack music is explored and celebrated by Steve Rudd, and lovely shots of the Lake District location by Mal Greenley. It’s like having very entertaining film geeks around to show you all your missing.
It’s also a serious academic study of the impact and subtle meaning and subtext of this film, but I enjoyed it mostly for the sheer joy that Robson brings to her writing.
Withnail and the Romantic Imagination: a Eulogy is for readers interested in critical approaches to popular culture, as well as those hardcore fans, like the book's author, who want to understand the power of this curious film. Will we never be set free?
Great fun and the perfect gift for a Whithnal Fan or for anyone with an interest in popular culture and film.
Out now: £12.00
More info or to buy this book here: