Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story


If you don't know about Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, you really should learn some about it. It is, as I have seen in interviews linked to this movie, the world's first postmodern novel, written before there was anything called modern to begin with. Its a book that fits in the era of "classic" British Literature, yet plays with all the rules in a way that they were not touched again until last century. Its proto-stream of consciousness, proto-meta fiction. It gets neither one of them "right" in the way that we think about them, but it lays down some interesting groundwork.

I notice a shift in critique of the book. Some older critique focused on the experimental nature of it. Most dealt with the seemingly on purpose inconsitencies and what they truly meant. There is that whole black page thing that occurs sort of early on. In other words, most early critiques and essays took it like I have just recently protrayed it, an experimental work whose mechanism is worth examining.

A Cock and Bull Story, though, takes a different path. It examines Tristram Shandy as a book that celebrates life and all its confusion itself.

This is NOT a movie adaptation of the book, by the way. It has scenes in it, modified in classic cinema fashion to be more up-to-date (they point this fact out themselves, I am not nitpicking). Mostly it is a behind the scenes look at a couple of days of filming the movie. Steve Coogan plays himself, and Shandy, and Shandy's dad; all with equal gusto. Rob Brydon, as well, plays mostly himself but also Toby Shandy, the uncle and seeming comic relief. Naomie Harris, my personal fave, plays the dedicated assistant and runner to the movie, and also represents that pesky thing called life.

The film is not half so experimental as the book, and I am not sure it means to be, so that is not a problem. The film does an excellent job of showing how life and film coincide, especially when your life is IN film. There is something of a plot twist, that the movie is a movie about making the movie, that I just spoiled for you, but you had to see it coming, really, and its not like its not been done before.

At any rate, get to it and watch it. It is funny, I promise, and quite good.

Written by W Doug Bolden

For those wishing to get in touch, you can contact me in a number of ways

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The longer, fuller version of this text can be found on my FAQ: "Can I Use Something I Found on the Site?".

"The hidden is greater than the seen."