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A Cock and Bull Story

He’s about to play the role of his life 

Year: 2005 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from A Cock and Bull Story

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Keeley Hawes, Kelly Macdonald

Back in the eighteenth century a pastor called Laurence Stern decided to write a book about Tristram Shandy, a fictionalised character who attempts to tell the story of his being. But by getting drawn into side-stories and the complexities of life the novel only manages to convey his conception, birth, christening and unfortunate circumcision. Full of such structural eccentricities it is therefore easy to understand why The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy is overwhelmingly labelled as completely and utterly 'unfilmable.' Yet Michael Winterbottom, known for his matchless movies such as the unforgettable Nine Songs, has risen to the challenge, making a film comedy about filming the unfilmable.

A Cock and Bull Story has a refreshingly interesting and amazingly funny take on cinema. Indeed, it is very difficult to describe the plot of the film. Ultimately it follows the hapless task of filmmakers and performers in producing this chaotic adaptation. We are invited to witness the struggles of the crew to appease a historical advisor, the problems of the wardrobe department in dealing with the over-inflated egos of actors demanding higher heeled shoes and the intricacies of the crews' private lives to say the least of what goes on. Yet part of the film also revolves around the characters of the film, fundamentally Tristram Shandy and Walter Shandy (Coogan) and Tristram's war-wounded uncle Toby (Brydon).

Although the story of Tristram is great fun to watch, it is undoubtedly the focus on Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as parodies of themselves that make the film the great British comedy that it is. The interplay between them both is an absolute joy, especially the hilarious scene where Coogan and Brydon argue over who has the best Al Pacino accent. Such fictional yet all-too-believable situations fill this comedy and definitely succeed in delivering the best laughs. Coogan in particular must be praised for making himself the butt of so many jokes, notably in relation to his Radio Norwich character, Alan Partridge. With an excellent cast, including X-Files' Gillian Anderson as both herself and Widow Wadman, David Walliams, Steven Fry and Martin Williams, it is hard to see how this masterpiece can go wrong.

Laura Sparshot

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Screenings of this film:

2006/2007 Autumn Term (35mm)