Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bruce Robinson: A Piece Of Work

Withnail, Robinson and I at Uncle Monty's Cottage, 1969/1986
Bruce Robinson, legendary cult director and honorary member of my personal Gonzo Pantheon, has recently finished directing a new film based on Hunter S. Thompson's novel, The Rum Diary. Starring Johnny Depp and set in Puerto Rico, it's scheduled to be released next month. Robinson isn't the most prolific of directors - he's most well known for Withnail and I (1987) and How To Get Ahead In Advertising (1989), which he also wrote the screenplays for, as well as the Academy Award winner, The Killing Fields (1984).

Robinson started off as an actor, appearing as Benvolio in Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet. According to a interview with Will Self in the October edition of Esquire (UK version), Robinson had a miserable time fending off Zeffirelli's unwanted advances. He later found revenge by basing Withnail and I's Uncle Monty on the lech.

Robinson as Benvolio, 1968
It's as a screenwriter that Robinson has made his mark. He's a master of existential wit and scathing satire which helped propel his directorial debut, Withnail And I, into the "classic" category. Of course, having the geniuses of Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann along for the ride didn't hurt either.
Withnail and I remains one of my very favourite films - everything from the acting and writing to the settings and the soundtrack, combine to create a seamless, cinematographic masterpiece. Nothing is out of place and after all these years it's still as fucking hilarious as it ever was. Here's the immortal King Curtis on film's opening song, "Whiter Shade of Pale":

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