This Film is Not Yet Rated (2006)

“I know a lot of perverts” John Waters

As a fan of old films, I’m interested in just how the Hays Code altered filmmaking. Enforced in 1934, the Hays Code had an amazing number of rules and regulations concerning what could and could not appear in a film, and when you grasp some of the intricacies of this censorship code, it helps understand film a bit better. Anyway, when I heard that there was a documentary dealing with the current MPAA rating system, well I knew I had to see it.

The Hays Code ended in 1967, and the MPAA rating system began in 1968. So this is when censorship officially stopped and rating began. The documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated argues that the rating system effectively censors in another way by plonking undeserved NC-17 ratings on films. Some cinemas refuse to show NC-17 films, and this results in a limited release, plus major video rental outlets–such as Blockbuster and shops such as Wal-Mart will not carry these titles. So an NC-17 rating can be a financial kiss-of-death for the films that receive that undesirable rating.

The film asks “what makes a film NC-17?” And this question is explored through interviews with various directors–including Kimberly Peirce, David Lynch, Atom Egoyan, and my personal Guru, John Waters (and by the way, don’t bother with the R rated version of A Dirty Shame, insist on that NC-17 rated version). These directors express the frustration they all feel with the rating system–not just because their films got NC-17 ratings, but because they feel that the rating system is vague and difficult to address and appease. Many examples are given of instances when violence in films is deemed acceptable–whereas sex is not. Some of the examples given are rather humorous–especially since they indicate an oddly puritanical strain coupled with a bizarre acceptance of violence.

The film spends a considerable amount of time trying to discover the identity of the MPAA ‘raters’, and this is achieved by using the services of private detectives who relentlessly hunt down their quarry. Establishing the identity of the ‘raters’ is pivotal to the issue of censorship as the question of just who is qualified, and what makes them qualified is essential to the rating question.

The MPAA Appeals Board process is also scrutinized, and this section of the film is particularly interesting as it reveals the obstacles opposing filmmakers, the tentacles of corporate control, the vague dictates of the MPAA and also its vast discrepancies. Fascinating viewing for all film buffs out there. DVD extras include filmmaker commentary, a q/a session with director Kirby Dirk, deleted scenes, and the theatrical trailer.

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