‘Withnail and I’ on the big screen

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Time Out is screening one of British cinema's most quotable films, with an introduction by 'Peep Show' writer Sam Bain. Dave Calhoun celebrates the return of 'Withnail and I' to the big screen

The legend is well known. Bruce Robinson’s ‘Withnail and I’, his film about two actors thrown together by circumstance in London at the fag end of the 1960s, didn’t make much of an impression at the box office when it opened in 1988. But a few years later it was a hit on video, with copies being passed among teenagers and students and watched repeatedly until the tape began to jump and fade.

As time went on, many of the film’s quotable lines – ‘I demand to have some booze!’; ‘We’ve come on holiday by mistake’; ‘I’m going to be a star!’ – slipped into common usage. You’d overhear people repeating the dialogue and feel slightly affronted that someone was speaking the script of a film that belonged to you and your living room or bedroom. By the time the twentieth-anniversary DVD came out in 2008, it was all a bit embarrassing. The extras featured ‘Withnail’ geeks slavering over the film’s locations and there was even a version of a game demanding that you down a drink every time someone in the film does the same. Enough with the nerdish behaviour, please! Can we get back to the film?

And that’s exactly what Time Out will be doing on Tuesday May 3 when we screen ‘Withnail and I’ in London’s West End at the Cineworld Haymarket – the same cinema (then an Odeon) where the film had its premiere in February 1988. My fellow Time Out critic Wally Hammond remembers joining the magazine’s team around that same time and walking down Haymarket and seeing his quote plastered all over the billboard in huge letters – ‘Superb! I loved it… Gloriously funny.’



I have to agree with him. It’s simply a great film, and one that rewards repeated viewings. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s also tender and sad too, from the arresting sound of Procul Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ in the opening scene to the final, rainy farewell between Withnail and his unnamed friend (revealed as 'Marwood' in the screenplay) in the last scene in Regent’s Park.

I’m thrilled that Time Out is now showing the film in a West End cinema. It deserves an audience it never had on its release, and we’re doing our little bit to redress the balance. I’m also very happy that we’ll be joined by the gifted comedy writer Sam Bain – co-writer of TV series ‘Peep Show’ and one of the writers of Chris Morris’s ‘Four Lions’ – to introduce the film and talk about what makes 'Withnail and I' such an enduring classic.

So please join us for this special screening of one of British cinema’s great comedies. It doesn't mean you can't continue to drink along to the DVD, or mutter those great lines under your breath...

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Author: Dave Calhoun



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