Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
IF YOU haven't seen The Piano yet, skip this item. In fact if you haven't seen The Piano yet, skip this newspaper, go and see it, and rejoin us afterwards. I've seen it twice and I want to see it again. The first time I thought it was very good, with moments of greatness. Now I think it's great, with moments of perfection. It's a critic's movie, full of clever touches, symmetries and symbols, but also a people's movie, full of twists and turns, powerful emotions and intoxicating beauty.

The distributors, Entertainment Films, evidently saw this, and boldly opened the film in several London multiplexes as well as the arthouses you would expect. Word of mouth suggests that this hasn't worked. At the Gate, Notting Hill, the crowds have been spilling out on to the road, while less than a mile away, at Whiteleys, there have been empty seats. At the Barbican, where one often has the experience of sitting with three film students and a dog, they have been turning people away; but when a colleague was forced to make a last-minute Saturday-night dash to the Plaza, Lower Regent Street, she got in with no trouble.

The multiplexes can't be doing too badly, or they'd have dropped the film. So please - if you do see The Piano a second time, go to a multiplex. Show the suits that their popcorn palaces are not just there to screen the efforts of investors in Planet Hollywood. Because we in London may have the choice, but around the country there are more and more places where the only alternative to the multiplex is the video shop. And there are still some films that are too big to be seen on your TV screen.

ON 17 October I held a competition for the HMV boxed limited editions of the Beatles' 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 compilations, retailing at pounds 26.99 each. All you had to do was play that game a lot of music-lovers play anyway - identify an omission from one of the sets, and say why you thought it was a grave one. The best reason would win.

The entries poured in and it hasn't been easy choosing between them. The main complaint against the first set seems to be the lack of George Harrison compositions - ie. none - with 'Taxman' and 'Love You Too' emerging as the most popular suggestions. Harrison fares better on the second set - with four tracks - though several readers reckon 'Within You Without You' a notable absentee. 'She's Leaving Home' got the most votes for inclusion on 1967-1970, with Adam Beeson of Brighton - who wins the box-set - providing the most persuasive reason: 'It's better than 'Octopus's Garden',' he says succinctly. Overall, however, the most popular omission was 'Twist and Shout', not included on 1962-1966, a fact lamented by dozens of correspondents. The evidence for its greatness is, as they say, here, there and everywhere, but the tersest argument came from Simon Kirwan of Southport, who wins the other set: 'This song is the Beatles 1962-1966.' It's hard to argue with that.

STILL full of enthusiasm for the contemporary cinema, I went to see Mike Leigh's Naked. This was at the MGM Tottenham Court Road, on Wednesday afternoon. Not the hottest ticket of the week, but the house was strangely full. Instead of the Sight & Sound readers you might have expected, there was a preponderance of lone men in late middle age. Without wishing to judge books by their covers, it occurred to me that they might have been lured to the film less by the international award-winning reputation of Mike Leigh than by the combined promise of the title and the poster, which shows Katrin Cartlidge (Lucy in Brookside) in her underwear. Not since going to Flirting, the extremely gentle Australian film about puberty, have I sat in a cinema so surrounded by sweaty disappointment. (And I'm sorry to say I shared it - the disappointment anyway. The film is uncharacteristically long and depressing.) Ah well. I'm sure my fellow punters enjoyed Dirty Weekend.

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