Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
YOU'VE heard of Johnny Handsome, Johnny Cool, Johnny Suede, Johnny Guitar, Johnny Belinda, and all the other old films called Johnny Something. Now, picking up a lot of attention at Cannes, comes Johnny Mnemonic, a designer-violence movie starring Keanu Reeves. However many Johnnies there may have been before, this is a cracking good title. Not just one of the greatest words the Greeks ever bequeathed to us, but a dancing rhythm and a little internal rhyme to boot. There is, however, something puzzling about it.

A few years ago, a James Bond film went into production under the title Licence Revoked. This had a ring to it, a curt elegance that Ian Fleming would have recognised. And it told you something of the plot - Bond was in seriously bad odour with M. When the film came out, it was called Licence to Kill. This was because the studio decided that the average American moviegoer would not know what 'revoked' meant. So they plumped for a title that told you nothing of the plot, and could have applied to any of the previous 15 Bond films, but not, strictly, to this one - if the licence had been revoked, then Bond no longer had a licence to kill, did he?

The question now is, why on earth do the moguls think the punters will understand 'mnemonic', if they couldn't cope with 'revoked'? The answer, I suspect, lies in that Johnny. Americans may not be very good at handling long words, but, being a multi-ethnic people of long standing, they are world-beaters at dealing with difficult names. And so, rather than being baffled and alienated, the less intelligent film fan will simply assume that

this Johnny guy is of East European descent.

SPORTS commentators are not famous for their self-control. So you have to hand it to John Motson. On Tuesday night, as England's footballers trounced Greece at Wembley, the normally dead-predictable Motson waited, heroically, until the fifth goal had gone in before making any reference to Greeks bearing gifts. The alternative theory - that he had been saying it all evening, in the dull bits, between goals, which the highlights left out - is one that this column will not entertain.

DOUBTLESS because of the continuing furore about television's influence on impressionable minds, the BBC has been taking its role as guardian of the nation's morals with renewed seriousness.

Last week's episode of Debbie Horsfield's addictive black comedy The Riff Raff Element featured one character, the normally sedate Mortimer, going to a football match and mounting a one-man pitch invasion in a bid to impress his wife's lover, for whom he has also fallen. Meanwhile, Carmen (the attractive young woman who's bumped off her husband and buried him in the cabbage patch) and Maggie (the armed robber with a bootful of fake licence plates) rescued Carmen's son from a psychopathic kidnapper-cum-blackmailer by knocking him senseless in a hit-and-run. Oh, and Phoenix and Roger were shocked by the sight of a young homeless couple shooting up heroin in the street. Yet as the show's credits rolled, what was it that an earnest man from Auntie saw fit to remind us of? That 'entering a football pitch during a match is a criminal offence'.

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