Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Withnail and I: An Evening to Remember Darren Conner.

It’s now just over a year since Darren Conner collapsed and died whilst taking part in a charity bicycle ride and this week at the Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre an evening was dedicated to remembering Darren. This year, as occurred last year with the special screening of Harold and Maude (1971), the staff at the cinema organised an evening not only to remember our friend and colleague but to raise money for another of Darren’s favourite charity’s this time The World Wildlife Fund.

The RBC Film Club, friends and staff enjoyed an informal get together with refreshments provided, thanks to who ever was responsible for that, followed by a screening of another of Darren’s favourite movies the black comedy Withnail and I (1987). There can’t be many of us who have never seen this movie, originally a box office failure and now described as one of Britain’s best cult films. Admittedly when I first saw this film some years ago I was not very smitten and did not find it at all amusing but what a difference a few years makes, it was like watching an entirely different movie. Perhaps it was the fact of watching it on a big screen with an audience of dedicated film lovers, but it was certainly laugh out load funny. It had some really great one liners emphasised by great comic acting from Richard E. Grant as Withnail, Paul McGann as “I” both of whom I believe were appearing in their debut feature films, Richard Griffiths as Withnail’s Uncle Monty and stealing both scenes’ he appears in was Ralph Brown as Danny the drug dealer, incidentally a dead ringer, in more ways than one, for a foreman who worked for me in the late seventies, but his name was Dave!!

Written and directed by Bruce Robinson (The Rum Diary 2011, Private Road 1971) it’s loosely based on his experiences as an out of work actor. The film, set in 1969, tells the story of two unemployed thespians Withnail and Marwood who attempt to drown their depressing life style in a continuous round of alcohol and drugs, plus the odd can of lighter fluid when times are really hard! Mistakenly imagining that the only way out, of what admittedly seems a continuous downward spiral, is to get out of town for a while. To this end Withnail approaches his Uncle Monty to borrow a country cottage he owns in the wilds of Penrith. But the boy’s stress levels are sorely strained finding that the countryside does not offer the respite they had hoped for.   Great evening, great film and a marvellous 60’s soundtrack, from the melancholic saxophone of King Curtis to guitar driven Jimi Hendrix tracks. Shame it has to have been for such a sad reason.

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