STAYING IN / Video

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The Independent Culture
THIS WEEK'S RELEASES

The Piano (15, Entertainment, out Mon). The film that divided as much as it delighted. Timeless expression of romantic love or sickly melodrama? The greatest film ever directed by a woman, or, as the American critic Pauline Kael pronounced, 'a silly erotic fantasy'? What's not in doubt is the Academy Award-winning performance of Holly Hunter as Ada, the mute heroine. She reaches a pitch of silent expressiveness, in rapture and agony, that recalls Lillian Gish. And don't forget Harvey Keitel - all the awards seem to have - as Ada's rough- hewn lover, journeying from aggression to tenderness, fetishism to love. Jane Campion's lush imagery doesn't benefit from the transfer to the small screen, but the film's more intimate moments do. This is a film to be seen - and, most likely, argued over.

Naked (18, First Independent, out Mon). Mike Leigh's coruscating comedy presents an anti-hero for the Nineties in the wandering form of Johnny (David Thewlis). The film follows a night in the life of this rancid philosopher and flagrant misogynist, and for much of the time is kept going by the force of his rhetoric - a belligerently brilliant mix of encyclopaedic scraps, religious philosophy and acid put-downs. Though Thewlis's performance is extraordinary, it can't quite compensate for the film's lack of structure and its carelessness with the rest of the characters, who are mainly stereotypes. For all its apocalyptic agenda, it's an empty rant.

Demolition Man (15, Warner, out Fri). Sylvester Stallone comes out of the deep freeze to tackle lawlessness in the late 21st century. It's Sleeper without the jokes, Blade Runner without the visual flair. Watching it can be put off for a century or two.

And the Band Played On (15, ITC, out Fri). Uneven but largely sensitive attempt to tell the story of the medical race to identify Aids. Matthew Modine plays the selfless researcher who did the donkey work; Alan Alda - a caricature - is the ruthless professor who stole the plaudits. A host of celebs come on for cameos in a film wrapped in red ribbons.

OUT NOW: THE FIVE BEST TAPES

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (18, Art House). Fred Schepisi's great exploration of racism in turn-of-the-century Australia, adapted from Thomas Keneally's novel.

Eureka (18, MGM). Gene Hackman's crock of gold and cracked-up life in Nicolas Roeg's lost 1982 masterpiece.

Raining Stones (15, First Independent). A steal from Bicycle Thieves, but also a rare, and raw, slice of British working-class life.

How Green was My Valley (U, Fox). John Ford down the Welsh pits in 1941: stately and sentimental, but beautifully shot.

Z (PG, Arrow). Costa-Gavras's superb 1969 thriller - a pacy, heart-stopping, anti-

Fascist melodrama. Quentin Curtis

Retail tapes may be rented from some shops.

(Photograph omitted)

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