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A COCK AND BULL STORY

Director: MICHAEL WINTERBOTTOM

U.K.| 2005. COLOUR. ANAMORPHIC. DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO. 94 MIN.


WITH ITS OVER-ELABORATION AND ENDLESS DIGRESSIONS, LAWRENCE STERNE’S THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF TRISTRAM SHANDY, GENTLEMAN IS INDISPUTABLY A LITERARY MILESTONE, YET ONE OF THE LEAST LIKELY CLASSICS TO GRACE THE SCREEN.
Never one to shirk a challenge, Michael Winterbottom finds the form to fit the content with this downright hilarious film about the mission impossible of putting Sterne on celluloid. So, we’ve Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in the roles of Tristram and his eccentric uncle Toby, but also as their off-screen egotistical ‘real’ selves, bickering over who’s got the meatiest part and who should have the highest heels. Indeed, the script credited to ‘Martin Hardy’ (not inappropriately, a pseudonym for Frank Cottrell Boyce, who’s penned a string of previous Winterbottom titles) feels like it’s sailing very close to the wind in portraying Coogan as a jumped-up British TV actor suffering unfounded delusions of Hollywood grandeur.
Jeremy Northam contributes his Winterbottom impression as the aloof, controlling director to this portrait of a working film crew, setting their puffed-up pretensions against the continuing battle with the financiers, while, perhaps typically, Naomie Harris’s lowly runner has the sharpest take on Sterne’s achievement and the film’s ambitions. With famous faces packing out the cast list (Mark Williams’ over-eager military adviser is a hoot), this is grown-up fun all the way, with added entertainment value in spotting the original movie sources for the historically inclined music selections. Let’s see, there’s Barry Lyndon, The Draughtsman’s Contract . . .

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