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More than eight years after his death, he’s still making headlines. This time? Because he apparently auditioned for the role of a Jedi Master

Cinema: It's Lucas who's the real menace

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace Director: George Lucas Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman (133 mins; U)

Network: The end of the silver screen?

Digital technology is poised to revolutionise the film industry. Audiences will benefit with scratch free images, sharper soundtracks and the quicker distribution of films. But, after a century of the projector, is the industry ready to change? By Chris Lakeman Fraser

Film: The phantom menace

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is here. The story so far: pounds 360million of US business to date, 24hr screenings, endless merchandising, wall-to-wall press coverage. And it's all in aid of George Lucas's first feature directing credit since the original Star Wars. And, boy, is he rusty. Never the best handler of actors, Lucas ensures that the computer- generated spectacles and a waffly story-line keep Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson (right) well in the background. Which isn't even to mention the allegations of racial stereotyping that have been levelled at characters like Jar Jar Binks. Persuaded you to see The Third Man instead? No? Didn't think so.

Words: flavescent, adj.

ALEC GUINNESS'S delightful A Positively Final Appearance (1998) has a passion for words: he hefts the OED to verify Peter Ackroyd's claim that Sir Thomas More first used many unexpected phrases, and notes of his own garden, "trees are still remarkably green: I had half hoped to show off a newly discovered word - flavescent - but that will have to wait for another couple of weeks".

Arts: Retouching Orson's evil

The `Director's Cut' is a recent phenomenon, so why is a restored version of Welles's last masterpiece, Touch of Evil, being released 40 years after it was made? The answer lies with film-editor Walter Murch.

`Star Wars' missile tested

FORMER PRESIDENT Ronald Reagan's vision of a national missile defence system that could knock enemy missiles out of the sky came a stage closer yesterday after the US military successfully tested a crucial part of the "star wars" technology.

Star Wars accused of race stereotypes

IS THE NEW Star Wars movie racist? Two weeks after the hotly awaited US release of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, die-hard fans of George Lucas's space opera are beginning to wonder about the wholesomeness of noseless baddies who speak in high-pitched Japanese accents, a filthy insect who sounds Greek or Arabic, and a computer-generated idiot alien who talks like a Caribbean galley-slave.

Words: gussy, v., n. and adj.

KINGSLEY AMIS often urged the dictionary habit, never let a word slip by. Chances are that many a trainbound reader of Robert Hughes's recent elegant demolition in these pages of The Phantom Menace forgot to look up what he meant by George Lucas's being "able to gussy it up with special effects that didn't exist 75 years ago".

Bestsellers: Hardbacks

1 Star Wars: Episode One - The Screenplay Century pounds 15.99

Books: Losing sight of a man who knew best

Hitchcock's Secret Notebooks by Dan Auiler Bloomsbury pounds 20

Film Studies: I've been to `Star Wars' and I've got the stub to prove it

About two weeks before 19 May, you could feel the air going out of the balloon called Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace. The mounting hype was impatient for that Wednesday, no matter that George Lucas likes to think of himself as someone who doesn't do things the old, manipulative, Hollywood way. Two weeks ago, the papers and the television news were agog with stories of people camping out on the streets to get in to the very first screening. Every magazine had Lucas on its cover.

Letter: 'Star Wars' snobs

Sir: Your assorted film critics have missed the point of Star Wars in general and The Phantom Menace in particular. Of course they are bad "films" - but they are excellent "movies".

May the farce be with you

"Loud, vulgar, manipulative, careless and pretentious, `The Phantom Menace' is one of the worst movies ever made"

Notebook: Hey, it's only a movie, says Lucas - but who's listening to him?

After years of idle longing, and months of frenzied anticipation, the final release of the new `Star Wars' saga could prove an anti-climax

Shower the screen with popcorn

VERY SENSIBLY, the American film industry has decided not to submit its new products to the Cannes Film Festival. Last year, the most awful thing happened to some movie or other about Bruce Willis in a vest with ten minutes to save the world; the Cannes audience laughed at it. The resulting bad publicity has made the American studios so nervous that they aren't prepared to give Cannes the opportunity to ridicule their summer blockbusters.
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