Retrospective Bruce Robinson

The Festival honors one of the most uncompromising writers and directors, Britain’s iconic Bruce Robinson – “The Master of his Word”

“Write it, damn you, what else are you good for?” wrote James Joyce. Words that are taped to the typewriter of writer-director, Bruce Robinson, long-revered by critics as the ‘neglected genius of the British film industry’. And had he never done another film after his 1987 loosely-autobiographical debut feature “Withnail and I”, he would have still been assured cult status in the annals of cinema history. “Possibly the world’s most iconic cool film”, wrote The Independent’s Matthew Barnett retrospectively in 2017 on the occasion of its 20th Anniversary. And in 1985, two years before his directorial debut, with his first produced script as a screenwriter, Robinson penned “The Killing Fields” – and was nominated for an Oscar.

He trained as an actor at London’s School of Speech and Drama, and at age 22 he landed his his first onscreen role in Zeffirelli’s 1968 “Romeo and Juliet”. Sporadic roles in Ken Russell’s “The Music Lovers”, Truffaut’s 1975 “The Story of Adèle H”, and 1977s “Kleinhoff Hotel” would follow, and these disparate experiences would be logged for future reference. 

His experience as an actor dissatisfied with the quality of too many scripts inspired him begin writing his own in the 70s. Unable to separate himself from the childhood he went through, his distinctive combination of pain fused with humor made him unique, and eventually secured him the patronage of producer David Puttnam – who finally produced “The Killing Fields”. And with an Oscar-nomination Bruce was now able to wield even more control over his scripts and stepped behind the camera to direct the darkly comedic “Withnail and I”. 

The film launched a star in its lead - Richard E. Grant, and landed on the top discovery lists of cineastes worldwide. Robinson’s second film, 1989s “How To Get Ahead In Advertising”, was more consciously fueled by his deep-seeded hatred and distrust of the establishment – and Margaret Thatcher. Independent cinema again afforded Robinson a vehicle to rant and rage against injustice.

But Hollywood would be another story. His 3rd film as both writer-director, 1992s “Jennifer 8” starred Uma Thurman and Andy Garcia. He was happy with the film until Paramount edited it to accommodate more screenings – and destroyed it. Tired of having his works butchered, Robinson would retreat from film, and turn his talents to writing novels where he’d have complete control.

He returned to script writing six years later for Neil Jordan’s “In Dreams”, but was again disillusioned by alterations made the director and producers. It took one of the world’s biggest superstars, his friend, Johnny Depp, to pull him out of retirement in 2011 to adapt and direct Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Rum Diaries”.  Promising him full control and protection, his second studio experience would this time be his greatest. All but two lines of Hunter’s were adapted into Robinson’s own words. Words that express “the voice of ink and rage”.  James Joyce remains taped to his typewriter. And the uncompromising master of words has much more to say.

Bruce Robinson will attend Oldenburg to present his works from Sept 12-16, 2018.

The Retrospective will include the following (8) films: “Romeo and Juliet” (1968), “The Story of Adele H” (1975), “Kleinhoff Hotel” (1977), “The Killing Fields” (1984), “Withnail and I” (1987), “How To Get Ahead in Advertising” (1989), “Jennifer 8” (1992), “The Rum Diary” (2011).  

Photos and more information about these films are available at