Despite an erratic track record, the director Michael Winterbottom has deservedly earned the respect of most observers of the British film scene. Over two decades he’s established himself as the UK’s most prolific filmmaker, making his films quickly and efficiently on relatively low budgets that make it easier to get the freedom to take creative risks.
That said, to mention Winterbottom as a leading European auteur in the same breath as, say, his compatriots Mike Leigh or Ken Loach, is hard, since the themes, stories and genres he tackles follow no obvious patterns while his directorial style changes wildly from project to project according to the needs of the material.
No wonder, then, that the results also vary, from the artistic successes like 24 Hour Party People, Wonderlandand Genovato failed experiments such as 9 Songsand Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, the latter a bold but largely unsuccessful attempt at adapting Laurence Sterne’s unfilmable novel.
That film’s chief legacy remains the first screen pairing of its stars, Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden, as a thrusting and parrying comedy double act. Their obvious chemistry went on...