Film: Video Round-up

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The Independent Culture
The Exorcist (18),

to rent from Monday

People threw up in terror upon its first release, 25 years ago. Now, 15 years after the BBFC inflated its lurid reputation by banning it on video, it's finally yours to rent as the director William Friedkin intended it. And just about worth the wait.

Don't bother holding your breath for the notorious effects, though. Friedkin's graphic staging of William Peter Blatty's tale of an adolescent girl's demonic possession - the spinning head, the crucifix masturbation, the thrashing bed - inevitably looks dated. But while the film comes nowhere near some of the claims made for it, in other ways it has weathered well. The eerie Middle-Eastern desert prologue is photographed in almost painful brightness before the gloomy Georgetown denouement. From frame one, then, Friedkin creates a mood of immanent evil that never relents. The doubts and preoccupations of the various priests, particularly those of the disillusioned Father Karras (Jason Miller), convey a powerful sense of spiritual crisis (even if the holy fathers' ubiquity at Georgetown parties and social events looks even more unlikely now). Friedkin's remarkable portrayal of the failure of modern medicine and its terrifying instruments should also find a more receptive audience today than it did in 1973.

Dancing at Lughnasa (PG), to rent

There's an air of deja vu to Pat O'Connor's torpid adaptation of Brian Friel's stage play. Kate (Meryl Streep) is a repressed schoolteacher, eldest of five sisters, including, of all people, a chain-smoking Kathy Burke, struggling to withstand the pressures of the modern world in pre- war rural Ireland. The Irish Tourist Board visuals and La Streep's thesp antics are par for the course, but that's not what nags. Then it hits you. Housebound? Tugging on a Woodbine? Bickering? It's Waynetta O'Slob: "Piss off Meryl - I am smoking a fag!"