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Mark Kermode | 16:31 UK time, Tuesday, 18 January 2011

What's the difference between a British and an American Blue Valentine? About two years.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    It's the main difference between British and American certificates. In Britain a rating just tells you the strength and frequency of potentially concerning material.

    Audiences and the BBFC almost approach them as clinically as mathematical formulas, simply telling us how much 'stuff' is in something. Nevertheless, a U or PG can still mean a fairly mature film in terms of target audience, and 15 or 18 can still be adolescent guff, i.e.; there is far less prejudice of tone or content.

    In America, it seems to be completely different with each rating having not just a commercial target audience but something akin to a social status attached to them. G films are children's films - very immature. PG is for a whole family night out - add a swear word if you can to make it a PG-13, so it stops being uncool enough for teenagers to feel comfortable. And then like you say Doctor, by the time you get to NC-17, which on paper resembles our 18 certificate, yet for them, since it's the only rating that outright bans people with no option for parental supervision, gets treated like it could only possibly be sleazy pornography.

    The whole attitude reeks of a commercially motivated balkanisation of film audiences - people put into little boxes and told what genre is appropriate for them. I genuinely think Pixar are one of the few filmmaking teams able to break through the G rating stigma and still appeal across the board.

  • Comment number 2.

    The strange thing about America is that their videos don't seem to even have ratings, whereas over here the BBFC arose out of the whole panic with home video.

    The documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated is quite interesting, it gives the impression that their ratings board is comprised of people who watch the films from the perspective of a kind of 'average parent' (which is kind of a flimsy term) and evaluate the film based on whether they think children should see it. It seems to me that it's kind of a culture that is based so heavily around children and family that the idea of anything 'for adults' therefore is not really understood by the mainstream and has negative or perhaps sinister connotations for a lot of people. I personally resent the idea, as an adult, that anything that is aimed at me and not aimed at children should either be considered in terms of its suitability for children regardless, or viewed as somehow questionable or pornographic.

  • Comment number 3.

    Mark,

    Are you saying that a film can get an NC-17 rating because of it's sophistication and depth that would not be appreciated or understood by an adult?

    I cannot think of a more offensive, egregious, irresponsible, and asinine excuse to give a movie a higher rating. With this close-minded mentality that underestimates the minds of younger audiences, it is no wonder why America keeps consistently pumping out so much dreck from their garbage factory.

  • Comment number 4.

    I find it stupid that NC-17 affects a film commercially. How many under 17 year olds would watch Blue Valentine? Not many I'd wager. So it shouldn't have affected that film all that much. The fact that it would have seems ridiculous to me.

  • Comment number 5.

    What I really don't understand about American ratings is their attitude to sex. Movies with frank and realistic sex scenes in them such as Y tu mama tambien, The Dreamers and Shortbus are given the equivalent of the British R18 rating (used purely for pornographic films) despite the fact that they are not pornographic but actually responsible, healthy depictions that also enforce the narrative of the film.

    Yet when R-rated films come out, either made that way or cut down for distributional reasons, we have films such as American Pie with unrealistic, irresponsible scenes of a sexual nature which fail to face the subject like a responsible adult and ironically encourages smuttier and more childish attitudes.

    As Roger Ebert said 'the MPAA has perverted a generation of American movies into puerile masturbatory snickering.' The only way for them to move on is for them to change their attitudes towards the NC-17 rating so that mainstream cinemas can show them and the only way, I think, is for the MPAA to become more open.

  • Comment number 6.

    Actually the NC-17 today means that no one "17 and under" can see the film so really it's the same as our 18 rating. It used to be "no children under 17".

    Unfortunately some things haven't helped.

    You have the long established R rating which was the top for a long time only for the X to come in self applied by the film distributers/makers and most of those films were given the X because of the sex content not the violence(Something that's been problematic in the States for quite a while).

    Then that X rating was then picked up by the porn industry giving a stigma to any MPAA classified films that were rated X.

    When the NC-17 came in 1990 to replace the X it carried the same stigma as the X so therefore only the really small budget, small risk films "Henry and June", "The Cook, The Thief, The Wife and her Lover" were going out with the NC-17 rating. Films like Predator 2, Total Recall and Cliffhanger are amongst some that got heavily edited before worldwide distribution to avoid the NC-17 rating.

    I think the final nail in the coffin might have come when Showgirls came out in 1995 which was supposed to be the big budget film that would bring the NC-17 into the mainstream circle. But the film flopped, got terrible reviews and because of the nature of the film and it's content, foolish distributers and cinema chains now forever believe that the NC-17 contains sleaze and pornographic images that they would not want to be associated with.

    So not only are filmakers artistically limited for fear of the big bad NC-17 rating but also lazy parents can bring their young possibly impressional children into hard R rated violent films, which otherwise could have been circumvented in some way had they used the more restricted rating.

  • Comment number 7.

    @liquidcow - very well put and I couldn't have said it better myself. It's why I quite like the BBFC nowadays with their attitude of 'adult films for adults'. I say this despite the comment I wrote that Dr. Kermode read out in his video a while ago saying that they should have banned A Serbian Film should've for being rubbish. It was tongue in cheek. :P

  • Comment number 8.

    Although Mark certainly has a point about the MPAA being immature (this is especially true in regards to its views on sex) I think it is unfair to suggest that somehow American audiences are inherently immature. The criticisms Mark has should be leveled at the MPAA and its ludicrous standards and double-standards.

    The real problem facing NC17 films is largely the fault of cinema chains. The reason NC17 do poorly at the box office isn't because "immature, dumb Americans" don't know the difference between pornography and proper films for adults, it's because cinemas don't want to turn people away at the box office or enforce the rules.

    The problem is purely a financial one: If a cinema wants to maximize its profits, it will fill most of its screens with R-rated films where all one needs to do is be tall for one's age to get in, rather than NC17 films where one is going to have to present ID and risk being denied a ticket.

  • Comment number 9.

    In my pre-seventeen years, I griped and groaned about the ratings system in America to no end. I would want to see something like The Ice Harvest or History of Violence, but given the content of the films I DEFINITELY didn't want to see them with my parents. When I turned seventeen, though, I just quit caring and I think that the classification of films is a useful tool in our society, even though they sometimes screw up.
    But, the message being sent by the ratings board when they give The King's Speech an R-rating is that the creators of the King's Speech messed up by giving it R-rated content, when it was the ratings board that screwed up by classifying this wonderful story R, and the same story with Blue Valentine.

  • Comment number 10.

    @LiquidCow:

    I've also seen This Film Is Not Yet Rated and found it to be a pretty interesting dissection of the US film classification system - it was one among the rash of "Bowling for Columbine"-style Com-Docs that were fashionable a few years ago.

    The main theme of the film was the lack of accountability in the classification system and ultimately driven by commercial interests - the membership list is kept confidential, the people making the ratings were under-qualified and its appeals process Kafka-esque in its obfuscation and secrecy (oh and female sexual pleasure was deemed to be more offensive than male!)

    One of the salient points about the NC-17 was the fact that the biggest video rental service of the time (namely Blockbuster) would not stock NC-17 rated film, thus receiving this rating effectively killing a movie's appeal in the lucrative DVD market. The films given these ratings tended to be, unsurprisingly, small independently-made efforts, rather than the big corporate blockbusters...

    I wonder if things have changed much since then, what with the advent of postal rental services like "Netflix" and given that we apparently live in the age of the Long Tail where choice and plurality is supposedly a selling point...

  • Comment number 11.

    erk... that was written quite poorly. Apologies for the grammar folks - too much cut&paste.

  • Comment number 12.

    The documentary 'This Film Is Not Yet Rated' gives a good overall view of how the MPAA goes about its business and also how predominantly Republican the raters for the MPAA are.

    It should be noted however that in America you DON'T have to submit your film to be rated, you CAN release it unrated. There are a few caveats though;
    Major cinema chains (such as our ODEON, VUE etc) will not screen
    unrated films, leaving you with only the option of a limited
    release to much fewer cinemas.

    Most retail chains (Walmart being the primary one to spring to
    mind) will not stock or sell unrated films at all...

    Unfortunately those two points also extend to anything branded with the NC-17 certificate too; Essentially it would be like HMV refusing to stock anything 18 rated or the local multiplex refusing to stock the same.

    This shows that the MPAA isn't wholly to blame for the R vs NC-17 fiasco as other large corporations have forced the movie studios into a position where it's not necessarily financially viable for them to take the higher certificate.

    Where the MPAA is most definitely at fault though is their own inconsistencies in ratings and staffing policies as it is not regulated in the way it ought to be.

    For a long time, when I was younger I hated the BBFC as it impeded me from watching anything like The Exorcist or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and when I did get to see them (A friend I made had the first 3 Texas Chainsaw Massacre films imported on LaserDisc; and a school teacher loaned me both Exorcist and Straw Dogs on VHS)in around 1996/7 when I was around 15/16 I couldn't understand why the BBFC had banned them, I'd seen the BBC Realm of the Censors documentary and heard the reasons pouring from James Ferman's mouth but I couldn't consolidate them with what I had watched.

    Now... skip forward a few years and we've uncut versions of the aforementioned films and we're also re-rating older films as time passes and allowing much more adult content through the floodgates than America whilst maintaining responsibility about it.

    A good example is one of the bonus features for A History Of Violence which was passed over here uncut as an 18 but had to be cut in the US to get an R. The bonus feature documents which scenes were edited down and compares them with our version.

  • Comment number 13.

    How can you have a 'high 15'?

    "This film is appropriate for those aged 15 and a half and over".

    A film's either deemed suitable for 15 year olds or it isn't, surely?

  • Comment number 14.

    "Joel_Cooney wrote:

    erk... that was written quite poorly. Apologies for the grammar folks - too much cut&paste."

    Poor grammar on Kermode's blog? Now that's what I call brave.

  • Comment number 15.

    That'll be a case of "The Nanny States", then...

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi Dr K,

    Not really related to this post, but I just wanted to ask whether you are going to respond to the post you gave on guilty pleasures several months ago (entitled "fireside chat"). A huge number of us (including myself and several others who rarely comment) responded to your question, and I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the films suggested by myself and others. Is there consensus on what films are underappreciated and, if so, does that actually mean they cannot be described as such?

    Would be great if you could get round to taking a look.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 17.

    Mark you said that the introduction of the 12a rating has caused some problems. I think that is an understatement. It has allowed film companies to now solidly target that rating as their preferred rating for most kinds of films, including those that were once upon a time commonly rated 15 or even 18 certificates.

    How many beloved action/horror film series have we seen that started in the 80s/90s with high certificates and adult levels of content and have subsequently been dumbed down and sanitised in the subject matter to achieve a 12a? This may be great for the film companies as they maximises their profits by increasing number of people who can see their films but it is limiting the kinds of films that now get made and ruining the cinema experience for some of us.

  • Comment number 18.

    I could sit here and talk ratings until I was blue in the face, but even with so many obvious shortcomings out in the open I doubt any serious changes are to the American rating system are going to occur any time soon. I would almost think more drastic measures such as a full overhaul of the entire MPAA ratings system would be needed to make people look at it differently, not to mention a much more open policy concerning which content they're restricting.

    There's no nice way of discussing it. It's just a shady system all around, riddled with backwards logic and double-standards.

    The conservative attitude towards sex has always been particularly bothersome, especially because they're clearly not holding violent content up to the same measuring stick.


  • Comment number 19.

    Aaaaaand that last post was filled to burst with grammatical errors. Awesome. Sorry, everybody.

  • Comment number 20.

    I agree with the concept put forward by Dr K that the US needs to embrace the idea of adult cinema being acceptable. I believe the main cause for this issue, is the inherent puritanical attitudes held by a substantial percentage of the US population.

    They simply don't feel comfortable with overt depictions sexual content in films. They will happily countenance scenes where sex is implied or intellectually delineated but they balk at showing physical acts.

    No matter how much the intelligentsia lobby the distribution industry, or whether legal changes force the issue, there will remain communities in certain areas that will have sufficiently strong religious lobbies to simply force cinema chains to embargo films with NC-17 ratings.

    You see it all the time with major retail chains dropping musical artistes after pressure from special interest groups. Do not forget the absence of certain books from schools, too.

  • Comment number 21.

    Although Mark makes a valuable point about the ridiculous nature of NC-17 rating in America, in my view the British is also slighty immature too. In this day and age with the internet and viewing movies at home on DVD (I watched the first Saw when i was 13 and not been affected by it since), the idea that 15-17 year olds can not handle many movies is outdated.
    In doing research about Film Classifcation for college, I learnt that the film classification system for the Netherlands goes AL (all), 6, 9, 12 (all which can be seen) and 16 films which are prohibited for people under that age.
    As the Netherlands is well known for being a progressive country, I thought this was just an anomaly, but then I found out that the Denmark system is more relaxed than the Netherlands. Their classifications are:-
    A: Approval of the film for general admittance.
    7: Approval of the film for general admittance, but not recommended for children younger than the age of 7.
    11: Approval of the film for admittance of children from the age of 11.
    15: Approval of the film for admittance of children from the age of 15.
    Children who have turned 7 are allowed admission to all films if accompanied by an adult (a person turned 18). Consequently it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that their children do not watch violent and hard-core pornographic films
    I personally believe that one of these two systems is much more suited to a modern era which shows much a more respectable view to a contemporary teenager.

  • Comment number 22.

    @ ch108

    No, that's exactly the point that's being made. The 18 and NC-17 certificates *should* be treated as near equivalents as just a generic adult material category, but the pornographic vibe the latter has acquired, means it's being treated closer to our R18 certificate, a category designated for licensed porn cinemas and sex shops. That's why I was talking about how our ratings (except the R18) don't have different target audiences and content types associated with them. Whereas in the US, they're not so much ratings as brands - there's the uncool kids and family ones, the hip teenager ones, and the filthy, depraved, disgusting immoral, one, that most cinema chains will shun to preserve their reputations.

    @ Rich Indeed

    Describing something as a high 15 is just the BBFC giving the consumer extra caution, that out of the spectrum of material allowable in a 15 certificate, it challenges the 15/18 borderline. They're not saying it changes how the rating works. It just means that some films will be more troublesome to categorise than others and naturally straddle two sets of category guidelines, and while a decision has to be made by the BBFC one way or the other, they recognise that it's a case where you may very well disagree. (The justification for the 12A for Casino Royale might be a good example.) You should take a look at the IFCO website, the Irish censors. They explicitly indicate all the time, when a film is deemed to be at the high end or low end of a rating.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think it is about time they turned the 15 rating into a 15A. The 15 rating is merely protecting 13-year-olds from swear words they already know and very mild sex or violence. Many 18 rated films ARE definitely unsuitable for these viewers but when I was 13 I was enraged by being barred from the latest critically acclaimed films just because they had too many f-words, and when I caught up with these films on DVD I could see how unnecessary and unjust their rating was.

  • Comment number 24.

    I agree completely with Mark's comments - films that deal with challenging, difficult topics in an adult way should be rated as such. This does not mean that the BBFC should be overly anxious when awarding classifications, which perhaps they are guilty of having been in the past, but that they should take a balanced approach.

    I find it amusing, though, that a great deal of my own adolescence was spent trying to see 'unsuitable' films, and probably enjoying them all the more because of their classification. I distinctly remember watching 'Brain Dead' at the age of 11, and being totally grossed-out. At a similar age, I also saw 'The Silence of the Lambs', which my friends and I had been warned off by various adults. At that age, we were concerned with the gore element - the sinister undertones of 'The Silence of the Lambs' were lost on us, and if I'd have been asked then which film was scarier, I'd most likely have said 'Brain Dead' - there was a lot more blood! In those days, I would generally choose a film according to its classification and always try for an 18. These days, I rarely notice the classification and always go for the film that tells the best story - I suppose, in a roundabout way, that demonstrates why film classification is needed.

  • Comment number 25.

    Like any sane person, I'm no fan of film censorship. But paradoxically, many of the best films in cinematic history were the results of film makers forced to push their creative limits to get their vision past film censors, whether it was the puritanical Hays Code in the US or political censorship behind the Iron Curtain, by using ambiguity and symbolism.

  • Comment number 26.

    I remember reading about one film on the IMDB, I can't remember which movie it was, I think it was made in either 2009, or 2010.

    The movie was rated NC-17, but the producer and director agreed to a pay cut, in order to get an R rating, and the MPAA agreed!

    How does that work? I thought it was based on content, and not how much you're willing to sacrifice your paycheck.

  • Comment number 27.

    @ HowardBealeGoneMad

    I agree with that and I detect the suspicion that the now relatively liberal and transparent BBFC of today would prefer to get out of the censorship business altogether and just serve as a classification and advisory body - except councils defer all their decisions to them essentially making them the Government's Censorship Quango, so they can deflect all the flack for the tougher decisions.

    I'd love to get to a time when an 'A' could be added to the 15 and 18 certificates, but as so much dismissal of the 12A already indicates, censorial but lazy parents, ignoring all the consumer advice, and taking sensitive four year olds into a horror film like 'The Hole', seem to think if you *can* get into a film, that means it *must* be intended for them. The fail to see that 12A means "We think this is for 12s and above - if you disagree with us, it's your fault if your child cries."

    And going back to Rich Indeed's question about what is the point of using language like 'high 12A or 15', the BBFC often acknowledges when they're on shaky ground and make you aware of points in a film, where you may disagree so you can choose to apply the tighter censorship yourself. As much as I hate censorship, in their defence, they do only have seven categories with which to group the entirity of cinema - that's probably the right balance between nuance and avoiding much confusion. Any extra detail they give - and compared to the MPAA, between the guidelines, the concise statements, and the extended consumer advice, they give a hell of a lot - I think is most welcome. For me, four-to-five ratings, as per the American and Danish system, is too few, though I do admire the latter's wholly advisory approach.

  • Comment number 28.

    I’d suggest that the film rating system of a given country is generally in line with that county’s moral stance - or at least the moral stance of the empowered middles classes.

    American’s are in general more hung up about sex than us in real life, but they seem to be largely fine with gun ownership, for instance, and this is largely reflected in America’s film content.

    If America is actually doing something ‘wrong’ then maybe it’s their culture that needs to change over time and, in so doing, take the film rating system with it. Viewing the rating system in isolation does not make sense.

  • Comment number 29.

    @TheConciseStatement

    You are very much right about the irresponsible parenting arguement to the ratings system. I remember going to see the Dark Knight when it was released, and a woman had a group of 3 six year olds, all of whom cried after the infamous pencil scene, and as a result created one of my worst experiences at a cimema ever (no relation to the film of course). Perhaps they could get over this problem with 18 films by saying when it comes to these that they will be 18, but if you're 12 (or an age similar to that) and over, you can then go with adult supervision.

    Although that may cause problems in the future, when instead of 18, film classifiers would say "we might as well call it a 12". I doubt this, but you never know.

  • Comment number 30.

    Superb point well made. I'd never thought of the classification in this way. Bravo Dr.K.

  • Comment number 31.

    As a kid I HATED our 18 cetificates. 'What kids in Amercia can see Aliens and Robocop at aged 13 and I can't!!?' I was outraged. But as you grow to the age when you can actually see all movies you start to think yeah, actually THAT shouldn't be an R and that shouldn't be an R - although I'm not talking about Aliens and Robocop here.

    I despise the Amercian attitude to the NC-17 rating. I hate the fact it's the 'kiss-of-death' for films there. I keep waiting for a fantastic but ballsy film to come out in America and say yeah...THIS is the sorta film you WANT to see but it's for adults so when you cna put your mobile phone down for more than a minute without chekcing it and stop caring about how 'cool' your hair is then and only THEN can you see this film.

    I'm shocked that parents will let their kids watch Eastenders night after night but am well up for a child seeing Jaws at age 5. I think Poltergiest is required viewing for age 8/9. If you haven;t seen The Terminator by aged 12 then you're missing out. BUT there are lots of films that shouldn't be seen by younger eyes and minds and THOSE are the films I want more of now. Not films that have been edited or created with getting a certain rating in mind.

  • Comment number 32.

    Watch 'This Film is Not Yet Rated'; it's a really funny and insightful documentary about the American rating system.

    I don't agree with those who say classification is a bad thing, that's ridiculous. I do have a real problem with the 12A rating though. British cinema classification could just as well be U, PG, 15 and 18, and then keep the 12 for DVD releases.

    The only thing the 12A rating benefits is the studios; the majority of box-office successes are 12A obviously as the widest possible audience can see them, the actual content of the picture is basically secondary.

    'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' (even though it's 'dark') could have been a PG, and 'The Green Hornet' could have been a 15. Problem solved.

  • Comment number 33.

    "here's an interesting story" . . . or not.

  • Comment number 34.

    NC-17s are terrible things. It means the film is not advertised on T.V befor 10 o clock and cinemas can choose weather or not to show an NC-17. 18s are wonderful things and i was glad to see that (i think) they have released the remake of I Spit On Your Grave uncut on video.

  • Comment number 35.

    The major problem with 'adult content' is that (thanks to the media and censorship [and religious] bodies) it is now almost wholly associated with sex - something virtually all adults engage in, at least during some points of their life - and drug taking; something society refuses to have an 'adult' conversation about, given 1 in 4 people admit to [at least] binge drinking and many public figures admit to 'experimenting' with narcotics.

    Acts such as killing people, which very few of us do, are seen as being suitable entertainment for anyone, from the very young (providing it isn't too disturbing) to actual adults.

    It is strange that any film containing violence, sadism, and "strong bloody horror" is treated much more lightly than any film showing adults having consensual, sex (even if not that explicit) and enjoying it.

    Films with real 'adult' themes; say, Shindler's List, Burnt By The Sun, The Mist, Vera Drake etc are judged by how explicit any sexual scenes are, then by if there is any drug taking, then by how explicit the violence is, how many swear words there are, finally by how disturbing the overall effect is.

    One reason many animated films may be so popular is that that they manage to have enough slapstick to please all family members, yet also include serious themes such as death, abandonment, loyalty etc that appeal to older viewers.
    Animation, thanks to Disney, is not considered real movie making. (Yet Disney did what Pixar haven't been brave enough to do yet, he killed characters off. e.g. Bambi. How disturbing was that? Many people remember that scene years after seeing it.)

    I do have concerns about a rating system that allows young children into any movie if accompanied by an adult.

    When I saw Dark Knight it was on an afternoon when some mums brought their whole brood with them; some kids obviously under seven; some of them got seriously upset at the more violent scenes; the mums didn't seem that bothered; I guess it was a case of keeping everyone occupied for the afternoon.

    Most people don't consider (or look for) the nuances of ratings, or the guidance given by boards. They go by what's on the poster.

    As for accompanied by adults - to take a point from # 21
    "Children who have turned 7 are allowed admission to all films if accompanied by an adult (a person turned 18). Consequently it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that their children do not watch violent and hard-core pornographic films."

    How do you know the adult with them is a relative? (Something very relevant to current concerns about paedophiles grooming children.)

    And what would you think of a parent that actively encouraged their 7 yr old to watch hard-core porn? Would you? And think it OK?

    I'll admit that when a teen in the 70's (when age limits meant that) one of the challenges for a 14/15 yr old was getting into an cert 18.

    Nowadays I guess that with youtube etc and downloads you can, if determined, see what you want, regardless of age. But I chose, no-one chose for me.

    As teens we push boundaries, but each in our own way, and see films with differing levels of maturity.

    Age limits, particularly for young children should have some meaning; as far as 'families' going to the cinema are concerned.

    Blue Valentine sound like a good movie, for teens and adults; for teens it helps prepare them for the ecstasy and heartbreak of relationships. As 'adults' it reflects what most of us have learnt by then.

    Yet Blue Valentine is given a higher rating than Saw 7, a film that just served up as many gory dismemberments in 90 minutes as it could. Which of those films is more 'adult' themed, which is more suitable for a teen audience?

    One trend that is interesting is that TV appears to be competing with cinema by producing dramas that concentrate on 'adult themes'; often shorn of special effects, and that focus on gritty 'reality', good scripting, convincing characters and are dialogue driven.

    Compare most of HBO's output (The Wire etc) with much of Hollywood's mostly teen-orientated output - which is more adult?

  • Comment number 36.

    @ozymandias87 - yes, I agree. Dr K, please read and comment on the comments we left in that overlooked movie blog. I was wondering what happened with that ages ago.

  • Comment number 37.

    @Ralph-Pritchard - no please, NO! I don't want a 15A certificate... that's getting far too close to the American R rating for my comfort. What next? 18A?

    If anything we need to get rid of the A in 12A and move it back to just regular 12s. Yes, I know the certificate was created for Spider-Man and subsequently 'darker' and more violent children's fare such as the Harry Potter franchise to allow the younger demographic in and thus get a bigger box office but the 12A has been known to ruin older cinemagoers' experiences when they encounter irresponsible parents bringing in their very young and loud children. I also think it kills the filmmakers' creativity and freedom as they're too busy balancing the swearwords and violence to appeal to as wide a demographic as possible compromising their vision. Or lack of if you're Michael Bay.

  • Comment number 38.

    Film/DVD/Video Game classification has always been an interesting topic of discussion as countries vary with their classification systems. I've listened to both side of the argument (the US versus the UK) on many occasions. I quite like HowardBealeGoneMad's information on how The Netherlands and Denmark classify their films. Thank you for pointing out their mature classification.

    Australia seems to be in the middle between the UK and US with it's classifications:

    G - General
    PG - Parental Guidance
    M - Mature
    MA 15+ - Content is strong
    18 - Restricted - high level content
    X - for sexually explicit sexual material.

    http://www.classification.gov.au/www/cob/classification.nsf/Page/ClassificationMarkings_ClassificationMarkingsonFilmandComputerGames_ClassificationMarkingsonFilmandComputerGames

    However, once having a discussion with an employee at my local independent cinema, they advised they can't stop a child (15 or younger) from purchasing a ticket for an MA or R movie. They can't even stop a child from entering that movie, as long as said child IS accompanied by an adult. It comes down to the point of individual choice of parent/guardian on what is acceptable for that child to watch.

    Like the UK, R (18) rated movies are not always smut with high level sexual content, but can depict high level graphic violence, as Eastern Promises and American Psycho and many others were rated here.

    The rating has never stopped me from seeing a movie if I want to view it, either at the cinema or on DVD.

    The lower the rating, the larger the audience that can view the movie.

  • Comment number 39.

    @driftin: Thanks for backing me up, I thought I was the only person who was interested to get feedback on that.

    Turning to the matter in hand, I've always thought that certifications were absurd. Since I was about 12 (if not younger) I watched films of all certifications at home and somehow managed to emerge without a warped little mind.

    I appreciate there has to be some regulation, but it seems incredibly arbitrary as it is. I never saw any real difference between PG and 12 films (except that I couldn't take a friend a few months younger than me to see a twelve without being interrogated by the ticket fascists), especially now the water has been further mudied by the introduction of 12A. Jurassic Park got away with a PG, yet somehow Spiderman didn't, despite the former containing much more violence. Makes very little sense to me.

    As for 18, what is the point? I can have sex at 16, or join the army and actually kill someone at 16, but I can't watch a pretend version of either till I am 18; in whose mind is that remotely logical.

    They could really cut it down to three categories: 15 and over for grown-up flicks, U for kids stuff and 12A to replace both 12 and PG.

  • Comment number 40.

    I have never known the rating system here in the US to keep anyone from seeing whatever they wanted. Whenever I see a movie, there are always kids(under 12) watching by themselves no matter if it's a PG or R. When I was a kid, I would sneak into a movie I wanted to see thinking someone might drag me out if discovered, but I don't think anyone really cared.

  • Comment number 41.

    I guess I should also point out that parents here in the US care very little about ratings and allow their kids to see whatever they want.

    I watched Splice a few months back and two parents brought their 8 year old son and 12 year old daughter. After the movie the dad was yelling at his daughter for picking he movie. Note 1) The dad nor the mother took their kids out of the theater when they noticed the content was too much for them. 2) Obviously, neither parent bothered to actually look up the content of the film nor consulted the rating which is R. 3)The father blamed the kid for not knowing what was appropriate instead of acting like the adult that he is and screen his children from certain things.

    Sadly I have seen variations of this scenario play out over the years.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm an American, Mark and I disagree on several points you're making. It's rare for any movie to get the NC-17 rating here in the first place. Movies that are given that rating generally don't have subject matter that most would care to see, anyway. I'll use one of the NC-17 movies that come to mind; Todd Solondz's Happiness. While I think that was a good film, I also thought that it 'crossed the line'. (that line that you really aren't sure where it lies on the ground until you've actually seen something that you know has crossed it). It was the last scene, you know the one I'm talking about involving a child.

    I think tone has a lot to do with that, also. Bodily fluids in "There's Something About Mary": funny. Bodily fluids involving a child in "Happiness": HIGHLY objectionable... For me, anyway. But I did see it, even with the NC-17 rating. I seek out good films, no matter what the rating, as a lot of folks do. I think word of mouth has a lot to do with it. If a film is good, even with the NC-17 rating, people will still want to see it.

    A Clockwork Orange had the dreaded 'X' rating (NC-17 now, right), but that didn't stop me from seeing that one either, when I started discovering Kubrick way back.

    Most people don't care to see a film that they have to 'read', either (I'm not one of those), but if a film like Pan's Labyrinth comes along, it will still draw an audience.

    Many times, movies that had 'problems' getting to either an 'R' or 'PG-13' rating are released here on DVD or Blue-Ray as unrated (versions) and that certainly hasn't stopped anyone from buying them. I have seen unrated versions of films that I had seen initially as 'PG-13' or 'R' and usually it's made very little difference, anyway.

    Am I for censorship? No. I do value that first amendment thing... But I think they (the ratings board; whoever they may be) generally get it right.

    The problem for me is the PG-13 rating. That has diluted film more than anything else. When I see a PG-13 film, it's almost guaranteed that it's going to be 'dumbed down' and usually a 'money grab'. The hard line between 'R' and 'PG' seemed to have produced higher quality mainstream material than what is being produced now. PG films I saw as a kid: Breaking Away, The Dark Crystal, Time Bandits, Raiders of The Lost Ark (how I loved those melting faces), Gremlins... I don't think any of those would be 'PG' today. The cuts that are made to 'R' movies to make it palatable to PG-13 audiences is far more damaging to content than the NC-17 rating will EVER be.

    As far as Blue Valentine is concerned; it looks like the kind of film that general American audiences aren't going to flock to, no matter what the rating. I'm not the typical American moviegoer. I just saw The King's Speech today and out of about 15 people that saw it with me, I was probably the third youngest in the theater. It's not the rating system. Audiences here mostly want 'popcorn' films if they take the time (and spend the money) to see a film on the big screen.

    Sorry for being long, but I think you're blowing it a little out of proportion.

  • Comment number 43.

    @Crash Landen:

    I mostly agree with your talking points on PG-13, but I do think you're missing the boat on the NC-17 rating a little. The reason that movies don't get the dreaded NC-17 often is exactly because of the stigma attached to it; everybody knows that NC-17 is commercial suicide and so there's a very conscientious on their parts to avoid the sort of material that could force them into that position. There's usually contractual obligations to bring your movie in under a certain rating, anyway. Nobody wants to be the NC-17 guy.

    You're on the right track with certain things, but NC-17 undoubtedly causes as much censorship damage as the PG-13 does.

  • Comment number 44.

    ... "conscientious effort". That's it, I'm done posting.

  • Comment number 45.

    ...and Mark, "over here in Scotland" we don't go to the cinema at all. We are all far to busy eating fried Mars bars.

  • Comment number 46.

    @Concise: it was more bemusement at the bizarre logic of that 'High 15' statement than a genuine question but thanks for your answer (and I'm not being sarcastic if it reads like that).

    The age based censorship system is certainly flawed as it very much depends on the personality and maturity of the individual: I remember watching Terminator at school aged 9, one of the kids went home and when his Mum asked him to do the washing up he replied, Arnie style, "F..k you as..ole" - not smart, and we weren't allowed to watch anything but PGs after that!

    But despite its shortcomings the age based classification system is certainly the best method we've got, though I think they've really muddied the waters with the 12A, PG13 style ratings - a kowtowing to the corporations rather than a genuine aid to the viewer. Perhaps the censors could come up with a clearer way of displaying the type of content that has resulted in the rating - maybe a traffic light system for sex, swearing and violence similar to the ones they have on food?

  • Comment number 47.

    I believe that in Britain we have a much better method for rating films than in America. However, their system of only needed to be accompanied by a parent is much superior than our outright ban on people under 18 not seeing under 18 films.

    The ratings should stay the same in Britain but just mean you have to be that age to see the film on your own. If a parent takes their child to see an 18 rated film that should be allowed.

    I would never have had the love for cinema if my Dad had prevented me seeing The Evil Dead, Alien, The Exorcist or Pulp Fiction at the ages of 8-13.

  • Comment number 48.

    This will never change so long as the NC-17 rating is around; the American rating system would need to introduce another adult rating because of the kiss-of-death nature of the NC-17. When "The Cook, the Thief..." came out Roger Ebert advocated an A for Adult rating, suitable for adults only but not suggesteing pornography. But it's as if the MPAA thinks all movies should at least be suitable for the teenage boys so many Hollywood movies are aimed at.

    There have been some odd disparities between the two countries, none odder surely than the case of "Poltergeist." "Poltergeist" was given an R rating but the filmmakers appealed, successfully. As the PG-13 rating didn't exist then (it came after "Temple of Doom" and "Gremlins") the movie was downgraded to a PG, from an R, with no cuts. In the UK the same movie got an 18.

  • Comment number 49.

    @Rich Indeed - There is already quite clear advice on film posters regarding what content has given the film its rating, this seems like enough to me. Furthermore, parents who actually care can go to the BBFC website to read their reasoning, or even ask the cinema themselves. When I worked at one we used to keep an eye on the BBFC website so we could inform people who asked about the content of PG or 12A films. Inform rather than advise that is, as it's ultimately up to the parent.

    Regarding the whole '15A' or '18A' idea, I must say I'm personally hugely against this idea four several reasons. One of these reasons is a selfish one; I basically hate the idea of going to see a grown up film and sharing the auditorium with noisy adolescents or children. I like to know when I go see something that's 18 or 15 that I'm less likely to have to put up with immature patrons. I worked at a cinema when the 12A certificate first appeared, and straight away I saw parents basically thinking it meant they didn't have to hire a babysitter, and taking 3 year olds to see totally unsuitable films. This will inevitably happen also with '15A' or '18A' and I think the repercussions of that could be much worse. There is the suggestion above of a sort of system where 15A means 'over 15 on your own, over 12 with a parent', but as the BBFC has said themselves, this system would simply be too confusing and not work. Honestly, people struggle with the 12A, something more complex is just going to fall apart.

    The main reason, though, that I would be totally against a sort of '15A' or '18A' system is along similar lines to what I was saying above (in post 2). I feel that there has to be a category that says - without defining something as 'pornographic' or seedy or obscene - that a film is for an adult audience. The BBFC system actually works differently for film and video, because for video they have to take into account that underage people are far more likely to gain access to it, whereas it's unlikely for someone underage to manage to see a film in the cinema. Therefore there have been cuts to video releases that weren't made in the cinema version (A Ma Souer for example). Now, with an '18A' system, the BBFC would have to adopt an approach with cinema films of 'this film could potentially be seen by children'. This would leave us with the same problem as the Americans, forever having to evaluate films with children in mind, with no acceptable category to say that a film is just not for them and is aimed solely at adults.

  • Comment number 50.

    I like the idea of a R rating, Parents can take their kids or teenagers to see a film that they think is important for them to see or they think doesn't really feature anything that will disturb them let's say something like Ed Wood, nothing really in it, just some swearing and crossdressing, I saw when it was 5 or 6, or something like Billy Elliot or Mark... something like Made in Dagenham, I like the idea that a parents than bring their kid to see a film they think it's important for their kid to see no matter the rating.

  • Comment number 51.


    Dear Dr Mark,

    I think the American rating system highlights more about the attitude of American society that anything else.

    It's as if they don't trust there audience to view any film that caters purely for adult tastes - as if I were a challenge to the structure of family life.

    Like you say, they should grow up.

    By the way, where has the musical intro for you video blogs gone?
    I really liked them.

  • Comment number 52.

    Well said. I couldn't agree more. The frankly absurd fact that sex is considered far worse than violence by the MPAA is a joke. The fact they don't have an adult rating they're able to actually use is also a joke. The NC-17 rating is used so infrequently (outside of porn) there's barely no point having it. Why can they not have NC-17 Normal and NC-17 Porn ratings? Like we do here: 18 and R18. A rating specifically intended for adult content.

    It gets even more strange when you consider there is no legal requirement to include a rating period on home video formats. Plenty of titles are released unrated, so you've got no idea how strong the content is.

    Blue Valentine is blatantly a 15 rated movie.

  • Comment number 53.

    What's equally annoying is international territories are regularly given the MPAA approved cut, not the cut before the MPAA saw it. So the BBFC for example aren't given the opportunity to even consider it for release uncut.

    Plenty of films that get cut for an R rating would likely be released uncut over here, if given the chance. There examples, like Monster's Ball being released uncut in The UK but cut in America. It later got released uncut on unrated DVD. You're talking a second extra footage, so slightly more explicit, blink and you've missed it.

  • Comment number 54.

    Dr K you may have already heard about this but I'll mention it here quickly Rosamund Pike was disappointed with the number of awards that Made in Degenham received.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-12226468

  • Comment number 55.

    I don't want to be a pedant, Dr K....

    ...actually, scratch that, I do. Please avoid saying "Here in England". Thanks.

  • Comment number 56.

    @ Touchfinder

    Agreed. If you can use the more inclusive term, you should - and just because it's more accurate. If The Good Doctor is getting viewers from all around the world, then it's safe to assume he's getting them from all across the country, beyond England. (It's the BBC, not the EBC, Doctor.)

    Also, using England as a synecdoche for Britain doesn't bode well for any return trips to Edinburgh. That will be one unimpressed live audience, I assure you.

  • Comment number 57.

    @Touchfinder,

    We are all grown ups here (or are we?) and all know that England is part of the U.K., so does he still have to say it? "Britain" is a far too nebulous concept for a pedant to use [e.g. does it mean "Great Britain" or "British Isles"?]. So perhaps he should say UK instead of Britain. But it's the BBFC, not the UKBFC, so maybe England is the most acceptable to the pedant, after all (assuming the speaker was located in England at the time of his utterances).

    I think he says "England" twice and "U.K." once. He also says "In America" all over the place. I remember getting a big red line through something I wrote in a school geography class many years ago; in place of where I had written "America", the teacher wrote "U.S.A." What a git.

    Pedants, eh? Who needs 'em?


    [However, starting with "Here's an interesting story..." is, of course, completely unforgivable.]



  • Comment number 58.

    @TheConciseStatement

    I think it unlikely that Dr. K would make the statement "Here, in England" if he was actually in Edinburgh.

    The man has his faults, but you have to give him some credit.

  • Comment number 59.

    @ antimode

    LOL. Obviously I wasn't suggesting he'd preface it with the word 'here', if he was somewhere else. Then the conversation wouldn't be so much about Kermode losing his edge, and more to do with whether or not the first signs of Alzheimer's were kicking in.

  • Comment number 60.

    If that's the case then maybe america can create an adults-only version of Star Trek and give it a special 'NCC-1701' rating to chime with the id tag of the Starship Enterprise?

    Tsch.

    18 is 18. The US is clearly putting dollars before clearly defining movie suitability. Maybe they could even create a new classification for stigmatizing subtitled films? NC-Can't see, won't see, so let's re-make it anyway.

  • Comment number 61.

    @Antimode:

    I think perhaps you are missing the point here. Kermode's faux pas here is just a small example of the sort of lazy shortcut (often perpetrated by English-based media personalities) that grinds the gears of some Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish citizens of the UK.

    Perhaps you time as an ex-pat has clouded your memory of the small but significant distinction between 'England' and 'Britain' - the two terms are not synonymous! :-)

  • Comment number 62.

    The idea of labelling a film 15, 18 or R or NC-17 makes no sense; it is entirely arbitrary. The wide variety of content allowable within each category cannot cater for any differentiation for people's disposition: swearing may not harm as 15 year old who cannot see say In Bruges (I know it got it for the violence too but assume it didn't) but may be unduly effected by a scene of violence allowable within a 15.

    In an ideal world there would not be a legal requirement to submit films for classification nor any legal restriction on watching anything but also that certain bodies would produce a 500 word document or so, highlighting the themes and mood of the piece including the explicitness of the violence etc. with no rating attached. It would then be up to the individual whether they should see it or allow their children. Clearly a simple guidance system may develop for physical, off the cuff, purchases in store but with legal downloading becoming bigger this could displayed next to the film.

    The extended information by the BBFC is heading in the right direction but could be more detailed still in some cases; I read them almost every time before viewing in the cinema. The only way to produce a responsible cinema going is practice it in your own life in particular with your children. As has been stated many parents are essentially lazy and treat the cinema as a baby sitting tool rather than engaging with an art work and as such love blanket statements from which to base their behaviour.

  • Comment number 63.

    I'm glad we don't live under Ferman's BBFC rule now, & censorship laws in the UK have calmed down greatly.

    It was frustrating as a teenager not being able to have easy access to the horror films, but it was only a few years later when I hit 22-23, and I had my first multi-region dvd player, & the first dvds I got were either the banned ones, or were cut in the UK.

    Personally I don't care what happens in the US when it comes to ratings, whether it's an R or an NC-17, as it usually comes here certified a 15. If it has been cut in the US, then the distributers will always release an extended version on dvd, or as the US distributers call it, unrated.

  • Comment number 64.

    To the petty-minded: please get over Mark's "Here in England" remark. He said "here in the UK" too, and he says Britain several times. It was just a slip of the tongue. Stop being so blimming precious.

  • Comment number 65.

    Surely all of this is going to be invalidated by the sheer buying power of the distributors? If more money is made from dumbing down movies and making them kid friendly then this is no doubt the future as far as the distributors are concerned?
    Young Guns 2 springs to mind. 12! The first one 18..
    Now given that our cinemas are now multi-plexes and we have little or no say in what we would like to see; I can see a future where the rating just disappears altogether. Overall, not unlike our education system, we will succumb to mediocrity and outright blandness.
    2010 will probably be the last year of relatively good movies... Independent cinema and non-conformist directors will be hunted down like dogs...

  • Comment number 66.

    I think its ironic that the BBFC have now become much more relaxed when it comes to giving film certificates and censorship, whilst the MPAA are still much more 'conservative'. However I think we all should question the MPAA, because some of their judgements clearly leave a lot to question.

    For example the Terence Mallick film Badlands, when it was first released in 1973 the film got an X certificate from the BBFC, and a PG certificate from the MPAA. Although in the UK the film has been re-classified and given a 15 certificate, the MPAA still uphold the PG certificate.

    Another example was the 1983 remake of Scarface, the film was originally given an X certificate and Brian De Palma had to recut the film three times and appealed his case to the MPAA, before the film had been given an R certificate. And yet De Palma still submitted his original X rated cut, and it received an R certificate. Wasn't the MPAA monitoring such actions.

    Pray tell me why do the MPAA get nervous over a relationship drama with sexual content, and still bypass two (brilliant) films with strong violent themes?

  • Comment number 67.

    @Joel_Cooney

    Hi Joel,

    Not so much missing other people's points as making some of my own ;-)

    Saying that there is only a small difference between the terms England and Britain is not a statement I would have made myself even as an out-of-touch ex-pat. :-)

    By "English-based media personalities" did you mean they are English in their heads? Obviously a lot of your lovable media personalities from the other regions of the U.K. like to live in Surrey, or wherever and are "English-based" also.

    I enjoyed Bacon's sparring with Kermode over the BAFTAs and whether they were perhaps, too Brit-o-centric. I think Bacon had him on the ropes. There was a time when Hollywood would not recognize so readily talent from elsewhere, partly due to strong unions which tended to prevent many foreign actors being hired. That does not seem to be the case so much now. Maybe it's time for the BAFTAs to "grow up" and start recognizing people on grounds exclusively rather than predominantly of merit instead of location.

    As far as the British vs English thing goes. I don't see a problem with a speaker saying "here, in England" provided s/he is actually in England at the time just as somebody in Edinburgh would say "here, in Scotland" and anybody listening remotely would know whether or not they were speaking of something that applied across the Kingdom or not. Maybe some of you folks are a tad sensitive. After all, the majority of complaints about this kind of thing tend to come from a part of the country where people enjoy certain privileges that are not enjoyed in the rest of the country and people from that part seem to be more than fairly represented when it comes to running organizations such as the BBC or being cabinet ministers, party leaders, premiership club managers or football pundits or whatever. It's is getting difficult for me to remember the last prime-minister we had that was not Scottish or crypto-Scottish. ;-) ;-)

    Reluctantly returning to the subject,

    Mark is telling us that it is all down to the American psyche over the issue of the NC-17 label when in fact it is probably more due to commercial reasons (or perceived commercial reasons)[He does like to over-simplify everything, doesn't, he?]. On the issue of censorship, the US generally comes out better in that if you look at which films were available in their uncut forms first in the UK and the US, the US seems to be the more liberal. Just look at how long films like Last House on the Left, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Clockwork Orange and The Exorcist were either banned or withdrawn in the UK. The UK, by law [Scots law, ENGLISH law, or Northern Ireland law, as appropriate :-)], requires that a film passes a national board of censorship. The US does not require this, the MPAA ratings are a form of self-censorship by the film industry. A film can be shown as unrated which is how a film like Antichrist was able to be seen here in the US. Therefore, which country needs to "grow up" is debatable. It is still possible, however, for a film to be banned by a local jurisdiction in the US or sometimes while a lawsuit is pending.

    I don't agree with Stuart Yates. If a film is being made for the US market, the "censorship" will effectively take place while or before it is made if it is aiming at receiving a US 18 certificate so there may not be that much to add back in for your DVD extras.

    As somebody living in the US, the biggest problem I have with all this is not being able to go into a screening of many films for mature audiences without the continual interruptions of kids who clearly don't want to be there, unfortunately the mighty dollar is what prevents the film-industry from embracing the NC-17 rating not the American psyche (well, not much).

  • Comment number 68.

    re: 64 -

    I guess so but his unconscious error betrays an underlying attitude which, on a broader scale, plays into the hands of the nationalists. I think the BBC comedian Limmy sums it up quite nicely in the following clip about "Britain's Got Talent":

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdChs1CSs2E

    (rather ironically, the above clip probably ought to come with a 12 certificate for strong language!)

    Whilst I don't personally agree with his conclusion (namely calling for independence), I find myself agreeing with the thrust of his argument.

  • Comment number 69.

    @ antimode I disagree, maybe for a Hollywood blockbuster movie, but if it’s an independent filmmaker such as Larry Clark, then the director will make the film, how they vision it, without the interference of the MPAA.

    Classic example Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream MPAA refused to rate it R, because of nudity, but Darren refused to cut anything out of the film, so it was released on dvd unrated, but there was an edited R rated version on dvd but for Blockbusters and other family-oriented video chain stores, but was titled Requiem for a Dream Edited Version.

  • Comment number 70.

    I remember going to see This Film Is Not Yet Rated back in 2006, when I was just 17. Ironically, it was an 18 in the UK, so I was sneaking in. It was a fascinating look at the conservatism of the MPAA, and the fact that it is a totally opaque operation, unlike the BBFC which has clear guidelines and explains why it gives the ratings it does it great detail. One of the main points the film was making was that films with homosexual content tended to get NC17s where comparable straight films would be given an R (cf. I Love You Phillip Morris, which was released in Europe maybe a year before it managed to get US distribution). There are definitely several issues with the ratings system in the US - oddly, though, their porn industry is practically unregulated, whereas in the UK the guidelines are far more strict.

  • Comment number 71.

    I remember watching mid 90's Ar-nuld vehicle Eraser, which required cuts to get an 18 here during the James Ferman era, in a cinema in Disneyworld, Florida no less, and I remember a good chunk of the audience, if not most, were young children. It is quite mental there.

  • Comment number 72.

    It seems that the American classification is something of a mess; over here we have a clear-cut understanding on what is potential on offer given a certain classification. There is of course, as you pointed out, a massive cultural difference but then surely that was always in evidence. We may speak the same language but the similarities end there really. In would appear that we are more mature when it comes to movies.

    Incidentally, given its rating how well did Midnight Cowboy do in America with regards to its classification?

  • Comment number 73.

    Joel -

    I hope they get independence but if you think that will stop the endless moaning you are wrong.

  • Comment number 74.

    My nephew is a high 15. He just giggles through most films.

  • Comment number 75.

    "Here's an interesting story..."

    NO! You remind me of Mike Yarwood doing a Max Bygraves impersonation complete with the flappy hands.

  • Comment number 76.

    The only reason they tried to apply an NC-17 to Blue Valentine is because of the scene where Michelle Williams gets eaten out by Ryan Gosling.

    Out with the kiddies and fancy a dose of knife crime or decapitated bodies with your popcorn and coke? Sure, lap it up with its R rating. But the sight of a woman receiving consensual sexual pleasure and it's a sorry-kids-this-will-send-you-straight-to-satan. How I love those puritannical Americans.

  • Comment number 77.

    There's a big big difference between US ratings and UK ratings - their legal enforcement. If I am an American filmmaker/distributor and I don't like the rating I get from the MPAA I can release it unrated. It might be commercial suicide, but many US DVDs are released without any MPAA rating at all. In the UK almost every film release in cinema and on video HAS to be rated BY LAW.

    Therefore, no matter what you think of the MPAA, the US system is far, far more liberal because filmmakers can 'opt out' and release anyway. Not so in the UK. If the BBFC cuts a film or rejects a film (and yes, they still do), then UK citizens won't be able to legally see that film. US system is therefore more liberal.

  • Comment number 78.

    And I quote (from the incomparable Roger Ebert's review of Greenaway's "The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover" (dated 1/1/1999):

    We live in a country where there is no appropriate category for a serious film for adults. On the one hand, there's the R rating (which means a film can be seen by anyone in possession of a parent or adult guardian) and on the other there's the X, which has been discredited by its ironclad association with hard-core porno. Why not an A rating, for adults only? That would be the appropriate rating for a movie like this. But then, God forbid, the theaters might actually have to turn potential customers away! And so the MPAA enters its third decade of hypocrisy, and serious filmmakers like Greenaway, filmmakers with something urgent to say and an extreme way of saying it, suffer the MPAA's tacit censorship.

  • Comment number 79.

    @78

    But it isn't real censorship like we get in the UK from the BBFC, since filmmakers can opt out of the MPAA system and show their film unrated.

 

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