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I Am Not Alan Partridge

One is a philanderer, the other denies having slept with Courtney Love: Steve Coogan plays his alter-ego 'Steve Coogan' in A Cock And Bull Story

Let's take another example; Coogan's exemplary turn in Jim Jarmusch's episodic satire Coffee And Cigarettes. In his segment, Coogan plays another bullshitting actor (again, named 'Steve Coogan') who reluctantly 'takes a meeting' with fellow thespian Alfred Molina. When Molina announces that he has discovered a shared ancestry with Coogan, and wants to 'be his friend', 'Steve' gets narky, refuses to hand over his phone number, and generally behaves like an arsey star, Yet when it transpires that Alfred is a good friend of ultra-hip director Spike Jonze, Coogan tries to backtrack with toe-curling results.

The flat style of Jarmusch's movie encourages us to imagine that what we are watching is 'real' - unscripted, and unrehearsed. Yet we all know that both Coogan and Molina are playing parts, in the same way that Bill Murray is playing a role as a coffee waiter (named 'Bill Murray') in a separate segment from Coffee And Cigarettes. Admittedly, Coogan sails close to the wind in his portrayal of an uppity British television actor who has been seduced by the Hollywood movie star life - a situation made more painfully acute by the fact that Around The World had flopped by the time Coffee And Cigarettes came out. But the very fact that Coogan is willing and able to portray himself on screen in such an unloveable light speaks highly not only of his talent, but also of his personality. Let's face it; Alan Partridge would never be able to laugh at himself like that.

Whether A Cock And Bull Story will prove too self-referentially post-modern for mainstream audiences remains to be seen. After the artsy indulgence of 9 Songs, I think the film marks a smashing return to form for director Michael Winterbottom, rivalling 24 Hour Party People as his finest and most enjoyable movie to date. As for Steve Coogan, his forthcoming production rap-sheet includes a film slated for 2007 entitled (wait for it...) Alan Partridge: The Movie. Ahaaaaaa!

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