Bafta's marital mistake

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The Independent Online
Last year I attended the Bafta awards and had the satisfaction of watching a great film-maker, Steven Spielberg, receive the Best Picture accolade for Schindler's List. This year, though invited, I decided not to go. It was obvious to me that the luvvies who in 1994 were compelled to concede the worth of a masterpiece, would this time organise a smugfest in honour of that incarnation of luvviedom, Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Even so, I thought five awards a mite excessive. Hugh Grant (who had the grace to be self-conscious about the award) for Best Actor when John Travolta was in contention for Pulp Fiction? Mike Newell for Best Director when Quentin Tarantino's dazzling direction of Pulp Fiction was there to be recognised? And, while I offer sincere congratulations to Kristin Scott Thomas for her Best Supporting Actress award, I have only the vaguest recollection of what role she played.

The person who should have got an award, but did not, was Michael Kuhn, boss of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, responsible for the brilliant campaign that gained Four Weddings and a Funeral its massive box office success: a triumph of marketing over matter.

Here is a film with hardly a joke worth laughing at (we are expected to guffaw at the use of the words "lesbian", "cowpat", "duckface", "total penis", "bonking", "balls", "erection") but is nevertheless boosted as a dazzling comedy. Here is a film whose "characters" are supposed to epitomise Britain today when it is - fortunately - almost impossible to encounter such persons anywhere in the British Isles.

Here is a picture of our country purveyed to the outside world which Americans will no doubt believe to be typical of the way most of us live, when very few parts of England have much in the way of the baronial halls these personages seem to inhabit. What the dramatis personae do with their time when not attending weddings - or buying clothes to wear at them - is not clear, since none of them seems to need to earn a living,

Here is a picture whose plot (if you can call it that) has so little internal logic that, I read recently, the producer and script-writer were at odds as to whom exactly the hero should end up marrying. Since there was not a single realistic relationship in the whole movie, there was indeed no discernible reason why anyone of the participants should - or should not - marry any other of the participants.

Here is a film which has got away with the soubriquet of "most successful British film ever" when it was mostly funded outside this country, was registered for tax purposes in Hamburg, and will return much of its profits to Eindhoven, Holland.

I do not blame Mr Kuhn for having cashed in on this trivial and complacent picture. But Bafta, by showering awards on it, has devalued itself and done no favours to the British film industry.

The writer is Labour MP for Manchester, Gorton and chairman of the Commons select committee on national heritage.