Tristram — not Tristam, as I had always thought — Shandy is the narrator of a post-modern novel written in pre-modern times. Its supposed unsuitability for cinematic adaptation is demolished by the ingenious and hilarious adaptation Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. The novel’s meta flourishes are ported well into cinematic form. Steve Coogan, the actor, plays himself playing Tristram, and Tristram’s father, as well as directly addressing the camera as he did in 24 Hour Party People (a movie also directed with similar gusto by Michael Winterbottom).
24 Hour Party People fans won’t be disappointed, but Tristram Shandy is even more similar to a greater film: it resembles in more ways than the Nino Rota music the glorious Fellini movie 8 1/2. The movie-within-a-movie-ness and surreal flourishes are all there. But in Tristram a patina of realism stains the making-of sections, with Rob Brydon (Rob Brydon), as the co-star who idolizes Steve Coogan, giving a performance so nuanced that it is hard to tell where the self-parody begins.
There are many scenes and sequences in this movie that made me squeal with joy, but I will only mention one of them by name to give the unitiated a flavor: hot chestnut down the pants. Need I say more?
The humor is all cock but the emotional content is not entirely bull. The movie, between the metapyrotechnics, is saying something about paternal love and perhaps the inability for a work of fiction to capture reality in all its messy digressions. Or maybe for a work of fiction based on another work of fiction premised on the inablitiy to capture… ehn, just go see it.