by Shane “Censorship Blues” Hnetka
It’s November (already!) and that means award season is looming. Over the next few months, movies vying for “best of the year” prizes will wend their way through theatres, generally in limited release, to ensure they’ll qualify for the Oscars and other random, boring awards. Since the films that get the most headlines tend to have an advantage over other movies, controversy is a good thing. They don’t call it an awards race for nothing.
BLUE IS THE CONTROVERSIAL COLOUR
There’s been a lot of controversy around Abdellatif Kechiche’s coming-of-age drama Blue is the Warmest Color lately. The film, which is based on a French graphic novel, won the coveted Palme D’Or at Cannes — the first comic book movie to do so. The comic’s creator, Julie Maroh, has distanced her work from the movie, calling it “another version … of the same story” with different characters, a different ending and sex scenes that are “a brutal, surgical display”, probably because no actual lesbians were consulted about lesbian lovemaking.
Kechiche, whose previous films include The Secret of the Grain and Black Venus, has also been fighting with Blue’s two main actresses in the press. Both Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos have stated in several interviews they’d never work with him again. Naturally, Kechiche has fired back, calling Seydoux ungrateful.
And then there’s the film’s latest controversy.
RATINGS ARE OPTIONAL?
The American distributor and theatre chain IFC will let teenagers to see Blue is the Warmest Color — despite the adults-only NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.
“This is not a movie for young children,” the chain said in a statement on its website, ifccenter.com, “but it is our judgment that it is appropriate for mature, inquiring teenagers who are looking ahead to the emotional challenges and opportunities that adulthood holds.”
The statement continues: “The MPAA has recommended that no American citizen under the age of 18 be allowed to see the film. While many people find the MPAA’s recommendations useful, others may look to alternative sources: reviews, recommendations of friends, etc., in making movie choices. The MPAA rating is a voluntary guideline that we as a theater are not obligated to enforce. In this case we feel it is unnecessarily restrictive and we will indeed admit high school age patrons to screenings of this perceptive and moving film at the IFC Center.”
The decision applies to screenings at the New York-based IFC Center. Also, anyone from Idaho can get in for free as a protest against that state’s decision to ban the film.
Naturally, not everyone agrees with the decision to admit teenagers. The stick-in-the-mud Parents Television Council, which lobbies for government to enforce “decency laws”, issued a statement condemning the move, saying that ratings exist for a reason and that it’s up to parents to decide what movies their kids can see. But others will likely recall the MPAA has issued many bizarre ratings over the years. One example: the documentary Bully was R-rated because the kids featured in it use coarse language. That rating meant that the kids the doc was meant for were blocked from seeing it because it contained language they probably use.
It will interesting to see what happens next, but in the meantime it’s nice to see someone stand up to the MPAA.
By the way, Blue is the Warmest Color got an “R” rating (18 and up only) when it played at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Jorge saw the film and interviewed the actors.
He gave it a stellar review on Dog Blog.