CRIES & WHISPERS

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The Independent Culture
TO SOHO, for a press screening of Ca rington, Christopher Hampton's film about Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey. The event shows what a difference an award makes. Beforehand, the organisers gave me two tickets, when often you get only one. Then the Cannes jury gave Carrington its Special Prize, and chose Jonathan Pryce as Best Actor for his portrayal of Strachey.

Short-term consequence: screening overbooked. Long-term consequence: a hit. The film comes out in September and by then every hack in the house will have written or commissioned a feature about it. Happily, this will be fully deserved. It's not my job to review films but I think you'll like it. Not least because of the attention to detail. Pryce looks so like Carrington's famous portrait of Strachey, it's uncanny. Or rather it's canny. Strachey was tall and thin, a stick insect in a tweed suit. Pryce is chunkier. The costume designer, Penny Rose, solved the problem by making the tweed suits out of silk, "to give the illusion of skinniness". I will never be sniffy about costume drama again.

RECENTLY I asked readers for examples of well-known events that didn't actually happen. A fax arrived from Nicholas Murray, biographer of the travel writer and cult figure Bruce Chatwin. It is often said that Chatwin left the staff of the Sunday Times by sending a telegram saying simply GONE TO PATAGONIA. The story can even be found on the cover of Chatwin's paperbacks (Picador).

When Murray was writing his book (Bruce Chatwin, Seren, 1993), he set out to confirm the story, as "it seemed such a good one. But I discovered that none of his colleagues on the Sunday Times could substantiate it". Eventually he spoke to Francis Wyndham, thought to be the first person to have heard the story, "who agreed that it was no more than a Sunday Times myth". If anyone has further evidence, perhaps they could let me know (fax no: 0171 619 0015). More myths next week.

HUGHES'S Law of TV Advertising states that whenever you tune into a commercial channel, you see the ad you saw when you last tuned in. At the moment, in my life, that ad is the one for Orange mobile phones. It's an epic allegory, set in the Far East, in which Orange is represented by a bicycle going the other way to all the other bicycles. The bicyclist is a young mother, with a beautiful baby on board. The scenery is ravishing. The editing is top-class. There's only one problem. Towards the end, a child runs after the bike, waving its arms. We get the bike's-eye view, and with it a chilling echo of one of the most famous images of the Vietnam War - the naked girl running from the napalm. It's possible that a director sophisticated enough to have made the ad could be unaware of that image. But not very likely.

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