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A COCK AND BULL STORY   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Wednesday, 15 February 2006
Knowing Me Tristam Shandy;  Knowing you, the post modern ironic cinema goer. Aha!

Based On the allegedly unfilmable and unconventional historical book entitled 'The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentlemen', this stars Steve Coogan as Tristam Shandy. And as Tristam Shandy's father. And himself, as Steve Coogan, actor, thespian, neutrotic paranoid who canít escape people going up to him doing Alan Partridge impressions. Confused? You will be.

And then, Just when you think you're going to watch a historical biography, then all of a sudden Steve Coogan addresses the camera itself and before you can say 'post modern irony', the fourth wall has evaporated as we retreat into the film set on the making of the very film we're watching, complete with bickering actors, narcissic writer budget worries and overzealously pompous  historical enthusiasts who love nothing more than to dress up in armour and blow things up. And thatís before we mention sleazy tabloid journalists, blackmail, his girlfriend visiting the set, Gillian Anderson and a gigantic oversized upside womb. And impressions of Roger Moore.

On basis of that alone - and that it is Half Historical drama and biography, half  postmodern fictional 'making of' of a film which doesn't actually exist, -  'A Cock And Bull Story' is certainly an acquired  taste.  And not one many seemed to acquire, which given its quirky nature, is perhaps understandable.

If you come into this expecting a story with a beginning, middle and end, well; the roadmap to the end isnít quite so much linear as squiggly, with multilayered plot strands and levels of reality all piling upon one another into that which makes it sound like a complete mess. It's not. So full of subtext and postmodern humour its amazing they managed to fit a film in as well, along with a clever  deconstruction of the vanity of self obsessed actors (there's a subplot
entirely revolving around a pair of shoes which make people taller on film), A Cock and Bull Story is perhaps one of the weirdest films you'll see all year.Or any other year. But its more than that. Its bloody funny too, filled with incidental sniping sarcastic humour, guest turns from Dylan Moran as the exasperated Doctor at his birth, and Rob Bryden as Coogan's fellow actor, co-star, and all round pain in the ass. Though a charming one.

Quirky, occasionally weird, self-reflective and filled with a particularly (but not peculiar) british humour, A Cock and Bull Story is certainly one of the stranger films you can see in a cinema; it'd be a shame if not more people went to see this, because it certainly deserves a wider audience. However, given the fact its been made by the BBC, it occasionally feels like it could have gone straight to Sunday night viewing if it was more straight laced and hadn't been so damn weird,
which probably explains its cinema outing. 

Compared to the jerk-fests of  'American Pie: Turd Camp' , this is hilarious in the same sense that The Office is - embarrassed, nervous, observational, cringeworthy humour rather than wall to wall tits, ass and poop jokes.  It's almost the comedy of the year -  if only it could decide which year it actually is set inÖÖÖ..

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