Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
FILM-MAKERS suddenly find classical music glamorous. The latest example is The Piano, which stands out from the pack in three ways: it's a masterpiece; it's about a gifted amateur player, not a professional; and the star (Holly Hunter) plays the music herself, so credibility is no problem. The same cannot be said of Un Coeur en Hiver, starring Emmanuelle Beart, who could never be a professional violinist because her fingernails are too long.

In The Double Life of Veronique, I happily swallowed the idea that the Polish girl was a gifted singer - despite her odd chin-up stance in her (mimed) performances; and also that the French one was a violin teacher, despite her cruel treatment of her tender charges. But Kieslowki doesn't know his music and in his latest, Blue, this is painfully clear. No composer, even in France, can buy a country manor on the proceeds of Euro-symphonies written on one note. No composer requires a spanking new, concert-size grand in his sitting-room, and no composer's widow has ever gazed at her late husband's unfinished score and dictated, dewy- eyed, 'No trumpets] He'd have written solo flute there] Then diminuendo . . .' and finished off his swansong in felt-pen that same evening.

Mozart's widow, Constanze, was a musician. When her man died, she sold off his MS page by page. Now that's more like it.

JUST FANCY THAT. Julie Burchill, writing in the Sunday Times Magazine, 31 October 1993: 'Life, while it rarely imitates art, often imitates television movies.' Woody Allen, in Husbands and Wives, quoted in our Overheard column, 27 September 1992: 'Life doesn't imitate art. It imitates bad television.' Life may not: middle-market journalism evidently does.

THE CASE of George Michael vs Sony confirms what I always suspected: that the record companies take inordinate profits from CDs. Among the documents that have emerged, blinking, into the public domain, is Michael's contract. It shows what he gets, and what Sony get, from sales of his albums. For each LP sold, George gets 48p, Sony pounds 1.43 - a ratio of one to three. For each cassette, George gets 53p, Sony pounds 1.34 - one to two-and-a-half. But for each CD, it's 69p to George, and pounds 3.38 to Sony - one to almost five. George, incidentally, isn't complaining about this (his beef is with the way Sony treat him as an artist). But that doesn't mean you and I shouldn't.

Now the good news. Costco, the 'warehouse club' supermarket that has won a legal battle to open in Thurrock, Essex, is going to sell CDs and cassettes. Not many - just the Top 10 CDs and the Top Five tapes - but the discounts will be spectacular. The mark-up, Costco claim, will be only 0.5 per cent, which should mean CDs for pounds 8.50, rather than the usual pounds 12-15. I wonder if the record companies will play ball.

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