Tristram Shandy: A Cock And Bull Story

on January 27, 2006 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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Leave it to iconoclastic director Michael Winterbottom ("Code 46," "9 Songs") to find a new way to film a classic English novel. That intricate -- even experimental -- book, Laurence Sterne's "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman," has long been considered unfilmable and, in a way, Winterbottom is conceding that point. Nevertheless, he attempts it, setting the tone by having actor Steve Coogan ("24 Hour Party People") portray not only the adult Tristram Shandy but also an exaggerated version of himself. This alter-Coogan introduces the novel's storyline, breaking a fourth wall that's soon demolished altogether. We further follow Coogan's adventures as a harried husband, competitive actor and possible adulterer, periodically coming back to the behind-the-scenes process of filming a 21st-century costume drama and a few snippets of the final "Tristram Shandy" movie itself.

While Coogan's 'life' here borders on the banal, that may very well be the movie's point, contrasting him to the novel's weighty themes. Winterbottom's conceit may not quite pay off but his risk-taking is exhilarating. Starring Steve Coogan, Rob Braydon and Shirley Henderson. Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Written by Martin Hardy. Produced by Andrew Eaton. A Picturehouse release. Drama. Rated R for language and sexual content. Running time: 91 min

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