This is and isn't an adaptation of Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. The eighteenth-century novel, described by Steve Coogan in the film itself as "a postmodern classic written before there was any modern to be post about," is highly acclaimed but very seldom read cover to cover, filled with tangents, digressions, and unusual stylistic tics (like having one entirely black page in the middle of the text). Director Michael Winterbottom initially intended to do a straight adaptation, only to find that a linear narrative version of the script came to just 30 pages. Adding another layer of postmodernity is the contemporary tale of filming the unfilmable, with Coogan playing an exaggerated, egomaniacal version of himself, similar to what you may have seen in Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes. What This Is Spinal Tap did for heavy metal concerts, Tristram Shandy does for the English period film; as an adaptation, it ranks alongside, well, Adaptation in the dramatic liberties it takes with the print-to-screen process.
Now playing at a handful of local theaters
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