The Critics: Cries & Whispers

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Indy Lifestyle Online
n THIS MONTH nearly 15,000 people have gone to one of only two cinemas to see a film that was first released in 1946. Next month it opens in 31 cinemas around the country. The person who should be worrying about this development is the Government's Chief Medical Officer. The film opens with two cigarettes burning in an ashtray, and for the next 113 minutes we sit there, passively soaking up the glamorous fumes. As the murders pile up, the stars work their way through a packetful of cigarettes (the ratio of fags to corpses is roughly three to one). The movie turns out to be an elegy to the lost art of cigarette acting. If any piece of celluloid deserves to have an EU Council Directive emblazoned beneath it warning of the perils of smoking, it's The Big Sleep, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

n IT'S WORKED with Billy Wilder, T S Eliot, Gaston Leroux, David Garnett and Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But the only author that has so far defied Andrew Lloyd Webber's gift for turning improbable source material into long-running musicals has been P G Wodehouse. Twenty years ago Lloyd Webber did a musical called Jeeves. Alan Ayckbourn wrote the lyrics. They set the musical in an unruly East End youth club, where Bertie Wooster recounts the jam he got into with a trio of girls. It was a disaster. Undeterred, Ayckbourn has written new lyrics and Lloyd Webber new music and they will be testing out By Jeeves at a workshop in September. When Jeeves opened in 1975 Michael Billington in the Guardian urged admirers of Wodehouse to institute legal proceedings under the Trade Descriptions Act. "Jeeves is as close to the spirit of the original as Budleigh Salterton is to Timbuctoo." The Really Useful lawyers should be warned.

n THERE IS a single sentence on Jane Austen in Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion. "The most delightful of English novelists," it begins, "has been oddly neglected by the screen ..." Not any longer. The BBC's Persuasion is getting a cinema release in the States, where Clueless, based on Emma, is a summer hit. Sense and Sensibility with Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson opens early next year, while Emma, a Goldcrest production, begins filming shortly. Next month sees the BBC's six-part adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Four films and a TV series: Austen will have shot from neglect to over-exposure in a year. Time Halliwell gave her a second sentence.

n I SEE from Variety that the new film directed by Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom), will be titled William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. This follows the trend set by Francis Ford Coppola with Bram Stoker's Dracula and Kenneth Branagh with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It's daft. The one thing this new film won't be is William Shakespeare's.