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A Cock And Bull Story [DVD] 
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Michael Winterbottom directs this off-beat comedy about an attempt to film Laurence Sterne's 'unfilmable' 18th century novel 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy'. Crossing the line between the world of the film and the life of the actors trying to make it, Steve Coogan plays both himself and Tristram Shandy, while Rob Brydon plays himself and Toby. As both comedians find their working relationship off-set by professional jealousies, in the world of the film, the affable, eccentric Toby is pursued by the beautiful Widow Wadman (Gillian Anderson) as Tristram finds the story of his life increasingly difficult to tell without getting drawn into lengthy digressions.
Michael Winterbottom is no stranger to literary adaptation. Both Jude and The Claim were drawn from works by Thomas Hardy. Nor is the versatile filmmaker a stranger to the post-modern romp, like 24 Hour Party People. In that peon to Manchester's music scene, Steve Coogan was Factory honcho Tony Wilson. In Winterbottom's take on Laurence Sterne's digressive The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, the prolific helmer combines literature with lunacy and brings Coogan back as the titular character--and then some. Coogan doesn't just portray the 18th century squire, but his father Walter and insecure actor "Steve Coogan." It's a film about the making of a film, effortlessly shifting between Tristram's tumultuous birth and his frustrated adulthood--bogged down in the writing of his life story--and between fiction and (what appears to be) fact. There are no end to the worries on and off the set: Coogan worries his heels aren't high enough, Rob Brydon worries his teeth are too yellow, and Coogan's girlfriend (Kelly Macdonald) worries she isn't seeing enough of him. It may sound like Spike Jonze's Adaptation, but in spirit, it more closely resembles Tony Richardson's Tom Jones. Coogan and his co-stars, particularly Naomie Harris as the ultimate film nut, Gillian Anderson as the American brought in to boost the project's profile, and Brydon as Tristram's Uncle Toby are as game for the challenge as their fearless leader. Consequently, Tristram Shandy isn't just one of Winterbottom's best films--it's one of the year's best. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Top Customer Reviews
Intelligent. Chuckle-worthy. Original... Definitely.
A film, about a film about an unfilmable book.
A strange movie, undoubtedly and at first I didn't know how to take it. Was it a love story? Was it a mockumentary? One thing was certain...it was definitely a comedy. Quirky, off-the-wall jokes typical of Steve Coogan's works were a constant in this film.
My favourite aspect of this film was its combination of realism and surrealism making the movie delightful to watch. But another outstanding aspect was its portrayal of relationships; be it the clashing single-sided friendship of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, Steve's clashing relationship with the entire crew, Steve's failing relationship with his girlfriend and his sucessful relationship with his new mistress it was all delightful.
The "actors", or the actors portrayal of the actors,'s view of the film at the end of the film was a definite favourite scene.
They say that "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy" is the unfilmable novel, and similarly this film is the unreviewable film.
I cannot guarantee you'll love it, but it's definitely a one-of-a-kind and definitely worth the risk.
Also Rob Brydon steals much of this film so I don't think you have to be a Partridge fan at all. Especially as the comedy is so different (and it is funny even if there a very few "jokes", the power struggle between Coogan and Brydon is excellent).
So I'd recommend making up your own mind and keeping an open one before seeing it.
So it sounded pretty disastrous that a film was being adapted from it. Actually, half a film -- the other film is a mockumentary about a film crew desperaately trying to make some kind of movie, out of a book with way too much material. It's wickedly clever, but there's too little Tristram Shandy and too much about the shoes.
While his mother is in labor, a grown Tristram Shandy (Steve Coogan) narrates the backdrop of his life -- his awkward conception, the farcical circumstances of his birth, early penile injury, his uncle's obsessions and (ahem) war wounds, and the circumstances of being named Tristram (and not Trismegistus, which is even worse).
But then we cut to the real world, where a film crew is filming the whole thing. Star Steve Coogan (himself) and director Michael Winterbottom (Jeremy Northam) are struggling to make this novel as true to the spirit of Stern's book as possible. The problem is, there's WAY too much material, and everyone wants different aspects -- love story, battle, his own character -- to stand out as the MAIN part of the story. Will the movie be funny? A sell-out? A big confusing mess?
Filming an unfilmable book is usually either going to be a disaster or a masterpiece -- for the latter, look at "Lord of the Rings." But "Tristram Shandy" hovers somewhere in the middle, courtesy of its mockumentary storyline, and some pointed mockery of the studio bigwigs.
Basically, the bigwigs interfere and insist on stars -- such as Gillian Anderson, who barely makes it to the final cut -- and hoard money, because the movie is too quirky for their tastes.Read more ›
If thats put people off - basically, If you liked 'The Trip' - you will love this.
Its a brilliant piece of work. Congratulations to all concerned.
I watched this film with trepidation, expecting it to be a hapless attempt at bringing the frivolity and energy of the novel to the less flexible medium of the big screen. Fortunately my fears were unfounded as Michael Winterbottom has created as good and worthy an interpretation as I can imagine it being possible to do. The half ad-libbed conversations between rob brydon and steve coogan are utter brilliance and the revelation that the documentary of the making of the 'film' is itself part of the acted film adds an interesting and relevant extra-layer.
The only reason this film does not get 5 stars is no fault of the film itself but of the restrictions inherent in translating a large novel to film. As a film in its own right, A Cock and Bull Story is funny, entertaining, multi-layered and intelligent but it is best seen as a modern and competent re-telling of a classic story.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A shame but predictable that a novel such as Tristram Shandy should end up defeating the film makers. Read morePublished 29 days ago by A. Riordan
Hilarious and funny film. Essentially a precursor to the acclaimed The TripPublished 11 months ago by J. Halls
...at the beginning? Not really.
Laurence Sterne long ago wrote an astonishingly innovative novel named Tristram Shandy, in which - sorry, you were saying? Read more
Well, I went to see it with my Mum and couldn't understand a word of it. The unstoppable rise of Michael Winterbottom continues...Published 16 months ago by Dan Smith