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Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005)

Cast: Steve Coogan, Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, more...
Director: Michael Winterbottom, Michael Winterbottom
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Warner Home Video
Genre: Comedies, Foreign, British Comedy, UK
Running Time: 94 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
    see additional details...

A group of actors and filmmakers set out to adapt an "unfilmable" classic novel -- but find that their own petty concerns get in the way -- in this satirical comedy. Laurence Sterne's 18th century novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman told the story of its priggish title character from the moment of conception onward, with a bevy of digressions, distractions, and unfinished anecdotes. In adapting the work for the screen, director Michael Winterbottom chose to stay true to its anarchic spirit: the film begins as a mostly straightforward adaptation of events in Sterne's writings, and then veers into a tale about the making of the film itself. Steve Coogan plays Tristram Shandy, who narrates his own life story, beginning with his slightly botched birth, overseen by an addled doctor (Dylan Moran) and his reticent father, Walter (also played by Coogan). Constantly quarreling with his battle-scarred brother, Toby (Rob Brydon), Walter Shandy has an epiphany when he holds his newborn son; however, before that moment can occur, the film switches into the present day, where Coogan and Brydon, playing themselves, bicker over costuming and the size of their roles in the film. The rest of the film's crew has their own concerns. Director Mark (Jeremy Northam) is trying to figure out how to secure a big Hollywood star for a supporting role and shoot a battle scene on a budget. The film's brainy production assistant Jennie (Naomie Harris) worries that their adaptation is leaving out the best parts of the book, as she nurses a crush on one of the cast members. All the while, Coogan tries to deflect a tabloid reporter's inquiry into his strip-club escapades, and attempts to pacify the concerns of his wife, Jenny (Kelly MacDonald). Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story had its North American premiere at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival. ~ Michael Hastings, All Movie Guide

"Tristram Shandy, the unfilmable novel, is not so unfilmable after all," writes David D'Arcy, introducing the conversation he had with director Michael Winterbottom when his adaptation of Laurence Sterne's 18th century classic, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Full article >>

GreenCine Member Reviews

The Inside Joke from the Outside by RJones3 May 3, 2007 - 9:23 AM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
It is impossible to criticize this movie without sounding like a crotchety outsider. I have read a few negative reviews, and that is just what they sound like. After all, what could be more harmless than a bunch of British film artists on a romp? Its inspiration is the eighteenth century novel by Laurence Stern, aptly described by BBC's Adrian Hennigan as a "sprawling, gimmicky book considered ahead of its time." In acquiring my useless liberal arts education back in the sixties, I was required to write a report on Tristram Shandy. I skimmed it and wrote a scathing condemnation on the theory that a negative viewpoint always appears more knowledgeable. My professor's comment was that he hoped I would reread the novel when the experience of my later years had sunk in, but now we have the film version. The bawdy humor of the novel, quite naughty at least for a clergyman, carries over to the movie, but the R rating of the movie was probably awarded for Gillian Anderson's offhand use of four-letter words. Much of the movie's humor, based on the public personae of British actors playing themselves, will be lost on American audiences. To sum up this movie one is tempted to use that most damning of words in the critic's vocabulary, i.e., slight. In fairness, none of us viewed from the inside is slight, and this applies particularly to film artists, who are nothing without attention.

In on the Joke by talltale July 13, 2006 - 4:17 PM PDT
4 out of 5 members found this review helpful
"Tristram Shandy" has long been one of my favorite novels, although I read it back in high school or college and so remember little except that--though VERY lengthy--it kept surprising me in the oddest ways and made me laugh out loud many times. I had never read ANYTHING like it before and not really that much like it--or at least as half as bizarre and clever--since. TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY manages to do for movies what the novel did for novels: that is, be fabulously self-reflective and entertaining while simultaneously addressing some pretty hefty topics with a very light hand. It also comments on and satirizes moviemaking, actors, "journalists," relationships, fathers and sons.

Steve Coogan ("24-Hour Party People," "Coffee & Cigarettes" and the newer--and much better--"Around the World in 80 Days") is priceless in the lead (and it IS the lead), with Rob Brydon not far behind. The direction is by Michael Winterbottom (who's still trying nearly every movie genre and managing most of them quite well), and the screenplay is by Frank Cottrell Boyce, a frequent Winterbottom collaborator equally good at adaptation ("Hillary and Jackie," "The Claim" and this) and original scripts ("Millions," "Pandaemonium," "Code 46" and "24-Hr PP"). Perhaps these two inspired the entire cast to "get" the joke because everyone acts accordingly. If the sparring between Coogan and Brydon does occasionally go on a bit, the film still bounces right back on track. Nearly 250 years separates novel from movie, but I'll bet Laurence Sterne would be delighted and proud.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.64)
107 Votes
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