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Ancient Greeks go to Hollywood

IMAGE is everything: Bill Gates, the world's richest man, has been dropped from promoting his company Microsoft's new games console "because he's a geek". Gates's marketing executives say Bill's bespectacled, nerdy image may deter young people from buying the new Xbox, which will rival Sony's PlayStation.

Visitors to Pop2000, Britain's first teen lifestyle exhibition in Birmingham, would no doubt agree. For them image, particularly the right label, is all-important. Logo-heavy T-shirts and the latest pound;100 trainers are more important than politics or the environment for "Generation pound;", says an NOP poll. Datamonitor, a market research company, reckons that teenagers in the UK have a hefty pound;8.4 billion worth of annual disposable income.

Meanwhile the image of the Mozart has taken a knock with the publication of new book of his letters. This revived a a 20-year-old row between the author Peter Shaffer and the critic and poet JamesFenton over Shaffer's hit play, Amadeus.

In the play, Shaffer portrays Mozart as foul-mouthed. Fenton was incensed at what he saw as dramatic distortion and suggested the language in the play came from the Shaffer family nursery. But the letters make it clear that the composer did indeed use scatalogical language and liked "toilet humour". Still Fenton, till recently professor of poetry at Oxford, maintains the play is "rubbish".

Hollywood is scouring the classics in search of sure-fire hits. The next generation of epics will not be pseudo, sword-and-sandal sagas like Gladiator, but the real thing, with screenplays by the likes of Euripides aand Homer.

The Bacchae, a version of Euripides's sexually explicit and brutal play, opens in cinemas here next year. And watch out for George Clooney as Leonidas, the leader of the Spartans. If this doesn't revive an interest in Ancient Greek, what will?

Diane Spencer

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