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The Cult Classic is a term that is not only overused but often quite problematic. For example when film of the year Frank came out, the posters were filled with spiel about how this is a new cult classic, a sentiment that is contradictory to say the least.

Then there are the fans themselves, who are often blinded by memorable quotes, attached to well orchestrated set pieces and generally think everything about the film is perfect. I therefore can be forgiven for being a bit of a devil’s advocate. The cult classic for me usually falls into two categories: great films which for whatever reason didn’t find an audience when they were first released, like Miller’s Crossing; or, films that are just way too cool for school, infuriating to those just coming round to seeing them – think Pulp Fiction (a film I detest calling a cult classic). Withnail & I is a bit of both, and while I don’t really love it, I can see why many human beings are so enamoured with the story of two insane actors and a creepy uncle.

The power lies in the performances, Grant and Griffiths are obviously the actors who benefited most in terms of fame but it’s McGann whose performance stands up most. Yes Grant and Griffiths are really great, but their scenery chewing would be infuriating without McGann’s more subtle turn as ‘I’. He is the one piece of sanity, he is us, caught up in the madness yes, but always an outsider. Having said that I can’t think of a much better piece of acting about realising you’re deluded than Grant’s final rendition of one of Hamlet’s soliloquies.

However I wonder if the restoration as great as it is, hasn’t taken away something from the overall viewing experience. Withnail & I is stunningly realised when it comes to atmosphere, the actors do genuinely look sick (maybe because they were) and the fields genuinely look wet. This authenticity adds to the romanticism surrounding the picture, even I, a first timer, longed to escape to some country cottage get completely arse-holed and smoke like a chimney. My point is that many “true” fans’ memories of Withnail will have been on a grainy VHS, in a small university dorm room, or in a living room on a cold windy night. A fuzzy picture and the distorted sound would have only added to the film’s rustic aesthetic, it would be interesting to know if die-hard fans feel the same. Is the film now too clean? It’s a criticism I have of all these Lord of The Rings HD, Blue-Ray re-releases.

Withnail & I stands up despite these reservations, and despite my inability to truly fall in love with it, there is no way I’d be bold enough to suggest it was overrated. Why? Because I’d be lynched.