SCREEN WATCH

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The Independent Culture
Next Tuesday night Channel 4 is showing the film that Jeremy Paxman missed the opportunity to fund. Lost For Words is a 27-minute short produced by Peter La Terriere and directed by Simon Smith. The black comedy about a peasant trying to put down an old and sick dog was made in Spain in 1993, but the film-makers ran out of money halfway through. Desperate for cash, they gatecrashed the Spectator magazine's Christmas party, and collared Jeremy Paxman. In festive mood, the Newsnight presenter agreed to stump up pounds 5,000 for post-production. His condition: that Conrad Black, as owner of the Spectator, had to stump up first. La Terriere and Smith raced to find him but drew a blank. Paxman was off the hook.

Three years later, having begged and borrowed the necessary, the film reaches the screen as a highlight of the Shooting Gallery season. Peter Capaldi, who played John Malkovich's slippery manservant in Dangerous Liaisons, stars.

With American audiences bewitched by Anthony Minghella's film of Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize winner The English Patient starring Ralph Fiennes, I see that Fiennes has decided on a sound career plan: stick to Booker- winning novels. His next movie will be Gillian Armstrong's version of Peter Carey's Oscar And Lucinda opposite Australia's award winning stage actress Cate Blanchett. The film is being shot in the UK and Australia, with the Australian Film Finance Corporation and other Australian funding bodies putting up some of the money.

Oscar and Lucinda is not alone in proving that a foreign co-producer means a foreign co-star. Stephen Poliakoff has written and directed a new bitter sweet comedy Food Of Love, a co-production between London's Intrinsica Films and Paris's MP Productions. And this one stars the French star Nathalie Baye opposite Richard E Grant. Working with one of France's most eminent actresses should provide Grant with starting material for the next volume of his diaries.

Jane Austen continues to make big bucks, and not insignificant amounts of sterling. Released in the UK last Friday, Emma has earned pounds 400,000 in its first three days. The film starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Jane Austen's heroine has beaten A Time To Kill to the top spot in London's box-office chart. It has taken more than $17.5m (pounds 11.6m) in the US.

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