2/28/07

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005)

Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Keeley Hawes, Shirley Henderson

Directed by Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People)

From IMDB: "Two actors, as their make-up is applied, talk about the size of their parts. Then into the film: Laurence Sterne's unfilmable novel, Tristram Shandy, an autobiography wherein the narrator, interrupted constantly, takes the entire story to be born. The film tracks between 'Shandy' and behind the scenes. Size matters: parts, egos, shoes, noses. The lead's girlfriend, with their infant son, is up from London for the night, wanting sex; interruptions are constant. Scenes are shot, re-shot, and discarded. The purpose of the project is elusive. Fathers and sons; men and women; cocks and bulls. Life is amorphous, too full and too rich to be captured in one narrative."

Keven and I liked the concept. We enjoy Steve Coogan, and Keven loved 24 Hour Party People. Maybe neither of us, however, was in the mood to watch this on Friday night. We both had laptops open and worked on other things, chatted, etc. I feel like I only watched half of the film, even though I sat on the couch for its entire length.

A few bright spots shone through, however, like the always radiant Naomie Harris and Kelly Macdonald, both of whom were vastly underused. As was Jeremy Northam. The birth scene during which women coach a screaming Keeley Hawes through labor while the men discuss the relative merits of cigars, forceps, and battle maps is worth the sum of the film's semi-successful largess.

The non-linear storytelling and rapid jumps from fiction to "reality" proved the most amusing traits. For example, Coogan's Coogan character is married to Macdonald and has a baby. We had to check IMDB to find out that, no, they are not actually married. This is a study in post-modernism disguised as both period piece and comedy, and as with most post-modern films (with the exception of the ethereal perfection that is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), the ambitious attempt is more admirable than the finished product. I grinned, I chuckled, but I did not necessarily laugh.

2 comments:

Karen said...

Re: Kelly Macdonald, have you seen Gosford Park? I'm addicted, which makes it mighty strange that I haven't watched it in a year. I can definitely recommend it, with the caveat that it's both quiet and fast, and so requires your attention. That means you, laptop lady! At the very least it's fun-with-accents, at best you'll be crying heartily at the end.

carrie_lofty said...

Must put that on my list. Another commenter -- Diva Kitty's Mom -- recommended it because of her adoration for Jeremy Northam :)

And don't tease -- I normally don't watch films with my laptop open. It was a weird night.....