Blue is the Warmest Color shows everything that is wrong with our rating system
There are few films released in 2013 that were as praised as ‘Blue is the Warmest Color,’ not only is it a touching story of the trials and tribulations of young-love, it won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. With that said, this film, considered by almost anyone in the industry to be a remarkable installment in modern cinema, will probably skip over your local theater.
The problem is the film is getting an NC-17 rating, an absolute crushing blow to box-office sales and a rating that is linked to sub-porn in the mind of standard moviegoers. The rating aside, Sundance Selects has confirmed that it will release the film with the NC-17 rating, beginning in October.
The film had a few terrible options that it could have worked with; it could have cut the film into pieces and delivered an ‘acceptable for R’ rating to theaters, it could contest the rating and push back the release into 2014, or it could have released the film without a rating.
To cut up such an honored film would be terrible, to contest it would have lost any momentum the film had after winning at Cannes this year, and to release it without a rating would have had it banned from a majority of theaters (most of which won’t accept non-rated movies as a standard practice).
The NC-17 rating was designed so that filmmakers could still express strong sexual content, extreme graphic violence or abusive language in their films, but it would be restricted only to adults. The NC-17 rating was a great idea, plagued by the fact that only terrible movies usually take the rating in hopes that a smaller, niche audience will want to see the film for the very reasons it was being restricted. Films like ‘Showgirls’ took the the NC-17 rating, a film so terrible that its only hope of drawing in crowds was to be so over-the-top in sex, drugs and nudity that people would see it just for the shock value. That’s what the NC-17 rating is today, whether it was meant to be that way or not.
So what happens when a truly terrific film gets the same rating as Showgirls? There’s no byline to say (yes there’s more sex than usual, but it’s a truly terrific love story and legitimate people think that you should see this film) it just wouldn’t fit on the Marquee.
So now no one under 17 will be allowed to see the film in theaters because of its “explicit sexual content.” The film itself is about a 15-year-old girl, played by Exarchopoulos, who falls in love with an older student. So only adults can watch a film about a 15 year-old love story because of sex. To give fellow Americans an idea of just how “explicit” these scenes are, the film received a rating of “12” by the French Ministry of Culture, they feel that children younger than 12 years of age shouldn’t watch the film. I’m not saying we have to do everything the French do, but obviously there is some middle-ground that we are missing.
Jonathan Sehring, president of Sundance Selects/IFC Films said, “This is a landmark film with two of the best female performances we have ever see on screen. The film is first and foremost a film about love, coming of age and passion. We refuse to compromise Kechiche’s vision by trimming the film for an R rating, and we have every confidence that Blue Is the Warmest Color will play in theaters around the country regardless.” He continued, “An NC-17 rating no longer holds the stigma it once did, and we look forward to bringing this unforgettable film to audiences nationwide. We believe this film will leave a lasting imprint as the The Last Tango in Paris for a whole new generation.”
The film was directed by Abdellatif Kechiche from a screenplay he wrote with Ghalya Lacroix. The film stars Lea Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, and it was produced by Alcatraz Films, Quat’Sous Films and Wild Bunch.