Arts and Entertainment

New Channel 4 drama Utopia combines conspiracy theories, edge-of-your-seat tension and dark humour with a talented cast. It could turn out to be one of the TV hits of the year

Hey baby, are you lonesome tonight?


FILM / She's the wet one with the fangs, who dies: In the movies, all that lesbians used to lack was the love of a good man. And being the movies, one was usually on hand to put them on the straight and narrow. Not any more. John Lyttle reports

The lesbians of Rose Troche and Guinevere Turner's Go Fish pursue careers, sleep around and put each other down: 'She's U-G-L-Y. Girl without an alibi. Ugly.' The older dykes occasionally despair of the younger, all lipstick and leather: 'She's got an ideal girlfriend in her head. I think it's hip-hop Barbie.' The dykes of Go Fish are so now they're hardly lesbian at all. At least not lesbian in the terms generally understood by cinema. No turning to other women because of an absent male (Richard's Things, 1980), no scheming bitches (Anne Baxter in All About Eve, 1950), no carrying on about coming out (Lianna, 1983). And when sex inevitably occurs, it doesn't pander to the heterosexual male voyeur, as most movies featuring lesbians do (as in The Killing of Sister George, 1969, or Personal Best, 1982).

Homely? Well sometimes: Andie MacDowell is good at playing 'real' women. Other women like her characters, men don't much. Now she's in the unlikely hit, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and still it's hard to know if she's got more than ordinary to offer

ANDIE MacDOWELL was a top model who managed the leap into movies just as it was becoming an ill-fated cliche. She's been acting for 10 years now, in good films - great films, mostly - in which she appears as a sympathetic, lovely-looking woman, believable and fun to watch. She's played opposite Depardieu and Malkovich; she's been directed by Robert Altman; she's currently starring in the top two films at the US box office - Bad Girls, a female western, and Four Weddings and a Funeral, the low-budget English comedy written by Not the Nine O'Clock News veteran Richard Curtis, which has startled the British film industry with its wildly enthusiastic reception in the States. She should, by now, be an undisputed star, and yet the nagging question remains: is she really any good?

FILM / It's a flirty job, someone has to do it: 'Americans being Americans, they want what they haven't got. They want excitement, something exotic, something different.' In short, something European. Or someone, like the Swedish actress Lena Olin. By John Lyttle

The Swedish actress Lena Olin knows why Hollywood wants her. 'If you go to the States, the best is represented by Europe. Buy this: it's a 'European product'. It's a European this, it's a European that. Because they don't have it, you see. It comes from the sophisicated and far away . . . There is something about me that they find strange and attractive. Americans being Americans, they want what they haven't got. They want excitement, something exotic, something different.'

Captain Moonlight: Think bouffant, think John Patten

THE FASHION message from the Oscars is clear, loves: the hair buzzword is 'lift': lift lift lift. Think mousse, think bouffant, think big hair, but only if you are a Guy.

The Sharon Stone of agony aunts: Ruth Picardie meets Karen Krizanovich, adviser to the gay, young, and troubled

SHE grew up in Big Rock, Illinois (pop 250). Her father was high-up and mysterious in the FBI and now drives a hearse; her mother runs a ladies clothing store and mourns professionally on the side. She's got a PhD in philosophy, claims to type at 120 words a minute, and thinks she might be a sex addict. She used to be a film critic but changed career 'because of the recession'.

Letter: Less than total recall

Sir: A product recall notice issued by Sainsbury's appeared in the Independent on 12 November. It concerned some snack salami that may have been contaminated. The nature of the contamination was not given.

Dear Naomi Wolf: A few words on the latest feminist tome from America

Congratulations] You've achieved 'blanket media coverage' again, only three years after The Beauty Myth. I know everyone says it's only because you're so pretty. Is that your fault? Anyway, the photo of you in this month's Elle shows you're not afraid to show the world you've got fat arms.

FILM / Smashing the Hollywood studio cistern: This scene was considered shocking in 1959: I mean, Rock Hudson and Doris Day naked in the tub? A lot of bathwater has gone under the bridge since then: you should see what happens in Sharon Stone's bathroom in Sliver. John Lyttle considers the functions of the movie bathroom

The forthcoming Sharon Stone thriller, Sliver, is about voyeurism so, of course, it features bathrooms, western civilisation's most private and personal place. Here single women masturbate, couples copulate on the sink, people die from falling under the shower and old ladies pathetically trim their chin whiskers with electric razors. The spectrum of human life plays out, caught at its most naked and intimate. The old lady's medicine cupboard mirror is reflecting a banal truth no other room in her home will be party to: that decay cannot be denied.

Real Life: Speak fluent German, look like Sharon Stone: A woman in the City can expect to be judged on her looks as much as her ability, reports Rosanna de Lisle

'I WAS told to wear more make-up and shorten my skirt. I was horrified. This was from a male assistant director. He was genuinely trying to help. He didn't actually say 'Look sexier', but the role-model he picked for me was astonishing: the kind of person who sat so you could see her stocking-tops. Sort of Sharon Stone with knickers.'

FILM / Base instincts with a low body count: Body of Evidence (18) Uli Edel (US); Dust Devil (18) Richard Stanley (UK/US)

EVERYONE involved in Body of Evidence is at pains to underline the project's artistic integrity. 'I am a great admirer of the courtroom genre,' says the director, Uli Edel. And Willem Dafoe has declared himself attracted by the prospect of wearing a suit in the movie - 'that'll be fun' - and of having a kid - 'that'll be fun.' And the explicit sex scenes with Madonna? 'That'll be interesting,' Dafoe admitted, almost as an afterthought.

Cinema boost

Cinema attendances were 98 million last year, the highest for 12 years, according to the Cinema Advertising Association. Admissions rose by 5 million compared with 1991. Top choice was the thriller Basic Instinct, which grossed pounds 15.5m, followed by the children's adventure Hook, which took pounds 13.1m.
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