Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
AS REGULAR readers of this column will know, a few weeks back I asked why the cinema is so unsympathetic to the poor, beleaguered upper classes - as if they don't have enough on their bone-china plates. Since then, of course, examples of films featuring saintly toffs have been flooding in, many dating from the time when the upper classes were the only classes to make it on to celluloid. Of the more contemporary suggestions, the most popular is the 1984 film of Julian Mitchell's Another Country (see Robert Butler's feature, page 18), which at least made the upper classes look sexy, even if they did all turn out to be traitors in the end. Sally Robertson, from Aberdeen, suggests Stephen Fry in Peter's Friends, but notes 'it is interesting that it should have taken a working-class lad like Branagh to present a toff as delightfully as this film does'. But Tim Rayner, from Hull, prefers Les Visiteurs, the French time-travel farce of last year, claiming the film 'did much to convince this viewer of the folly and injustice that must have been the French Revolution . . .' Now that's a sympathetic portrayal of the upper classes.

SOMETHING VERY strange seems to be happening to the hit parade right now. If you listen carefully to LA rapper Ice-T's current offering, 'Gotta Lotta Love', it may sound rather familiar. Where have we heard that haunting melody before? That's right: it's from Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, the avant-la-lettre ambient megahit of 1973. History often repeats itself these days, of course. But that it should do so straight outta Chalfont St Giles by way of South Central LA is surely quite spectacularly odd. My music-business sources tell me that Mr Oldfield is 'bemused' by his current revival. And also 'delighted': authorship of the rap is credited to 'Ice-T and Mike Oldfield', and it's at No 39 in the charts.

TO THE House of Commons for the launch of The Benn Tapes, the latest addition to the BBC Radio Collection. A small gathering, mostly wearing BBC labels, heard the indefatigable diarist - Boswell to his own Johnson - dwell affectionately on the highlights of his studio life, including the one they haven't yet broadcast, when he recorded himself going to sleep. The most sympathetic response, however, came when he mentioned that in 1949 he was employed as a D-grade producer at the BBC and paid pounds 9 a week: 'I gather Mr Birt would like you to return to those days,' he said.