cries & whispers

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2 A ticklish problem for the Warner Bros press office this week. Well, what do you put on your posters when your film - Ismail Merchant's The Proprietor - has been dismissed as "worse than daft" by our own Kevin Jackson; "Ill-advised ... Merchant flounders" (Independent); "ridiculously bad' (D. Telegraph);"a bigger turkey than Bernard Matthews could ever dream of" (Sun); "gauche, dull, perplexingly bad" (Times); and "a calamity" (Time Out)? Normally, you'd take a quote like "For once, even Moreau's magic is not enough to save a film" (Sunday Times) and use only the words I've put in bold, but Warners have hit on something a little more special. Dump the critics, get in some wide-eyed writers et voila! "One of the best films I've seen this year ... complex and dazzling" (Paul Theroux); "charming, sensitive and highly intelligent" (Peter Ackroyd); "a marvellous celebration of friendship" (Kazuo Ishiguro); "a wonderful film" (Caryl Phillips). Why don't we just get celebs to write book reviews in future? Like Keanu Reeves on Ishiguro's The Unconsoled: "Uh, it's about this dude ... er, it just goes on and on, man ... "

2 Of course, everyone's having a go at being a journalist these days, what with celebrity columnists, Llord Webber reviewing restaurants and, ahem! It Girls like myself writing arts diaries. So it's good to hear of a bunch of journos reversing the trend. Battersea's BAC theatre has invited four critics to direct plays for a new season. Michael Billington of the Guardian, freelance cutie James Christopher, Nicholas de Jongh, the Standard's legendary hatchet-man, and the Times's Jeremy Kingston are the brave quartet. In the stalls with flashlights and pencils at the ready will be director Michael Bogdanov (theatre critics are "vicious, vituperative, vitriolic, abusive, arrogant, excretory, toadying ..."); painter R B Kitaj ("art critics killed my wife!"), Vanessa-Mae (who took out an advert after a nasty music review) and Ismail Merchant. Tee-hee!

2 The unbound proofs of the new Leigh Bowery biog thump on to my desk. But what's this attached? An anxious memo from the copy editor detailing areas of concern! I don't think they meant to do that, did they? Sample "queeries": the pop-singer and the trendy designer - "very fond of the poppers - OK re libel?"; "okay to say [writer] was completely drunk?"; "okay to say [avant-garde performer] had taken acid?" My fave anecdote is the one where Elle mag asks Bowery for his favourite item of clothing. When he replied, "my fox-fur coat", they told him they had a no-fur policy and could he suggest something else? "Well, I have a no-censorship policy," snapped La Bowery, slamming the phone down.

2 I see darling Ralph Fiennes is as hot as ever, what with Ivanov sold out at the Almeida (though apparently some people have been ringing the box office thinking it's Ivanhoe) and The English Patient. But Rafie has given just one print interview for these prestigious projects - with a local rag, the Hampstead and Highgate

Express. "Since everything that's written about him is 99 per cent rubbish, I don't blame him," snarls his PR, who spends her days beating hackettes off the spindly luvvie with a baseball bat. Can't think why. Just check out the thin, hairy legs poking out from his shorts in English Patient ... Aaargh!

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