tilly_stratford: (HB: Steampunk Bush)
[personal profile] tilly_stratford
I went to a screening of Withnail and I at the Cinematheque in Oslo last night. I know I keep saying I'll stop going to screenings of films I own on DVD, but this was subtitled and there are parts of the film where the mumbling/accents/sound design makes the dialogue incomprehensible to me.

It's also been a few years since I saw the film in its entirety. When I saw the collection of "party hard" college boys who'd showed up to the screening I was thinking maybe I'd outgrown the film and would just find it childish and dumb. But no. It's still hilarious, and has so many laugh-out-loud moments for me you could hear me laughing over the din of the audience. The final sequence is equally heart-breaking, and every scene in the movie adds a facet to Withnail and Marwood's relationship. It's a great film.

Except for Monty.

God, that part has always bothered me intensely. When I first saw the movie as a teenager I felt really conflicted about liking the film at all. The "depraved homosexual" element is just so vile. These days I've come more to terms with how the majority of entertainment has more or less problematic elements, and I'm allowed to like things -- have guilty pleasures, even -- in spite of them, if I acknowledge that they're there. (No "But I like the film so it's not problematic!")

The thing is, Monty isn't a terrible character, up until that moment (the attempted rape) he's pretty funny (way more amusing than Danny, which the movie spends way too much time on). He's incredibly pompous and has some great lines to that effect ("As a youth I used to weep in butcher shops."), and I'm not saying there couldn't be comedy in how Monty both misunderstands Marwood and Withnail's relationship, and Marwood's signals... But there's a line that the film crosses and as a result the movie is a little less funny to me after that point, even after Monty's been written out of the story.

When I was younger I tried to come to terms with the homophobic elements in the film by subscribing to the fan interpretation of Withnail being in unrequited love with Marwood (basically the opposite of what he tells Monty), because I guess I thought a more three-dimensional gay character made up for a harmful one.

Now I'm more like... Well, Withnail being gay is one possible interpretation (even when the writers have denied it) but the attempted rape scene is terrible no matter what else is going on in the movie. I'm just glad that after the sequence is over it's not brought up again. The rest of the movie is funny, and clever, and has some great writing in it.

In a way it's a bit like Game of Thrones. In that show they keep using rape and rape overtones and not acknowledging any of it. The rest of the show is good though, even great, but I understand that there are people who can't and won't stomach the show because of its worrisome sexual themes. I like the show, and when scenes like that happen I'm always glad people acknowledge it, discuss it, and call the creative forces behind the show out on it. Yeah, at times it is a lot of bullshit to swallow.

On a lighter note; I remember when as a teenager I was just dying about Paul McGann's long curly hair and Renaissance angel looks in W&I. Now at 27 I was thinking "He's good looking, but a very predictable kind of good looking. ...Did Richard E. Grant have that unusual and ethereal beauty the last time I watched this film?" (Seriously, what a fascinating face!)

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tilly_stratford

March 2015

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