Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story Michael Winterbottom

Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story Michael Winterbottom
Taking a total left turn with his last film, 9 Songs, in which he attempted to mainstream pornography, Winterbottom chooses yet another unconventional route with this whimsical slice of period satire. A film within a film about adapting a novel based on trying to write a novel (get that?), this fittingly subtitled film truly is cock and bull with its constant hilarious digressions in trying to tell a story. Based on Laurence Sterne’s 18th century novel, the film stars Steve Coogan playing himself and two other roles: Walter Shandy and his son, Tristram. Fellow comedian Rob Brydon co-stars as, well, Coogan’s co-star, while Jeremy Northam, Naomie Harris, Kelly McDonald, Gillian Anderson, Stephen Fry and pretty much every screen talent in Britain make appearances as themselves or someone else. Designed as a film to tell Tristram’s life story, the "film” suffers constant production setbacks, be it unsatisfactory action sequences or simple wardrobe altercations. In the end, the "film” merely finishes at the beginning of Tristram’s life and loses direction completely. Coogan is his usual brilliant self, as himself, in a slightly put-on version that recalls the eccentricities of some of his past characters. Along with Brydon, the pair owns the screen, be it simply by talking about the colour of Brydon’s teeth in the make-up chair ("pub ceiling,” as Coogan says) or at the end when the pair have a laugh adlibbing while the credits role. Their commentary is more icing on the cake, as they unload a series of witticisms about the shooting, as well as Coogan’s repeated attempts to name off directors he’d like to work with (four times in total) as if he’s Joe Piscopo or something. Best of all, though, is Brydon asking Coogan, "So, what have you got on for today?” This of course, results in the two casually discussing their plans following the commentary with the utmost wit and authenticity. Plus: the full interview with Tony Wilson, deleted scenes, "behind the scenes” featurette, scene extensions. (Alliance Atlantis)