• Tristram Shandy

    Dir. by Michael Winterbottom

    A film inside the making of a film based on a novel that doesn’t exist Tristram Shandy is an entertaining look at the filmmaking process with the idea that everything is a creation, true or false doesn’t really come into the discussion.

    Steve Coogan is Shandy in the film-within-a-film but also narrates directly to the camera some as well as just playing himself, “off-camera,” in the film as well. He’s joined by his friend and somewhat rival Rob Brydon, the two keying off each other both comedically and dramatically throughout.

    The idea of the film is that the novel, The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, is unfilmable and so the production is beset by various creative difficulties that provide many comedic moments of ridiculousness. For example, fights erupt over the types and sizes of shoes, who’s wearing them and in what scenes featuring what actors. It’s an amusing bit in an of itself, showing the ludicrous demands of those involved with making films and what compromises need to be struck. At the same time, though, is the novel’s story itself, of an un-famous man trying to make his own story a memorable epic. The arrogant, foolhardy spirit is reflected in different ways by those making the film of the novel, all expertly intertwined with one another. The pace moves quickly, though, showing the disposable nature of not only the work at hand but, it seems, ultimately of the very works themselves. It’s as if they’re all involved in something that doesn’t really mean anything but at least they’re having a good, self-involved time doing so.

    Less an indictment of filmmaking and filmmakers Tristram Shandy prefers to hold up the struggling artists for the ridicule they so clearly deserve but, in that very process, shows that there’s also some value to having a story to tell, a point to be made about making a point. It’s a deft turn of narrative on itself solely for the sake of defending the very purpose of narrative: That it gives us all a broader insight into what we all share as humanity.

    Rating: B-