Euro Beat: British Censors Vow to Get Tougher, Plus Roman Polanski's Editor Speaks

Brian Clark, European Editor
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has already made waves over the last several years by heavily censoring A Serbian Film and The Human Centipede 2, and calling for an all-out ban on The Bunny Game. Now, according to a recent announcement, they're about to step up their game even more.

In response to a public study carried out by an independent research group called Ipsos MORI, the board vowed to intervene more in the way films depict rape and sexual assault. Specifically, "scenes with make sexual or sadistic violence look appealing, reinforce the suggestion that victims enjoy rape and scenes that invite viewer complicity in rape or other harmful violent activities."

According to BBFC director Sam Cook: "Once again the public have told us that context, tone and impact, and a work's over all message, can aggravate a theme, or make it acceptable, even in cases of sexual and sadistic violence."

Cook goes onto acknowledge that deciding whether to intervene in these types of scenes is "complex," but they will fight to arrive at a decision with "balances freedom of expression against public protection."

The BBFC said that for the most part, it will simply "remove certain depictions of violence on the grounds that they consider them to be potentially harmful." We'll see whether this simply makes it a bit harder for trash cinema in the UK, or whether modern equivalents of classics like Straw Dogs or Cruel Story of Youth  arrive censored.

Results aside though, the website, Strange Things Are Happening, actually went through the entire report, and the details are a bit questionable to say the least. For the study, "35 people across London, Bristol and Dundee were asked to watch and comment on a number of recent controversial films that had either been passed uncut, cut or banned." 

That seems like a fairly small sample size to make a statement about censorship for the entire UK as a whole, but never mind -- I got a C in statistics. What's even more troubling are some of the sample answers. As you may see from the link below, they range from ill-informed to borderline incoherent. My favorite is: "I am normally strict about what I consider acceptable, but while it is not acceptable, I was about to let it happen and I could watch it, so it might be acceptable."

Even more laughable is the fact that besides showing them entire films like Antichrist, The Bunny Game, and Martyrs, they also showed clips from movies including Hostel Part II, Sex and Zen -- Extreme Ecstacy and The New York Ripper. So much for the "context, tone, impact and overall message" stuff that they mentioned earlier. In any case, that maniacal laughter you just heard was probably Tom Six after adding three extra rape scenes to The Human Centipede 3 script.

Roman Polanski Collaborator Hervé de Luze Talks Saving TESS and Editing in Prison 

In Paris, the Cinematheque Français recently showed a newly restored version of Tess with Roman Polanski on hand to introduce the film. French paper Liberation conducted a great lengthy interview with Hervé de Luze, the French editor who made a name for himself by finding a way to make the edit of Tess work after several other editors -- including Alastair McIntyre (Repulsion) and Tom Priestly (Deliverance) -- failed. He has worked on every Polanski film since, from the ill-fated Pirates to The Pianist and Ghost Writer. Below are a few translated highlights.

On Francis Ford Coppola's vision for Tess:

"I was present for a meeting with Francis Ford Coppola, who was expected to distribute the film in the U.S. He thought Tess was too long and too slow, and he wanted to cut entire sequences, including the sublime dance in the country at the beginning. He wanted more close-ups of Nastassja Kinski, something more nervous. If we had listened to him it would have been a thriller!"
On cutting scenes he loved from Tess:

"There was one sequence that still haunts me, where we see Tess putting her siblings to bed, singing a lullaby. It was sublime, but it was just atmosphere, and it made the film drag. It was cut. I learned from the outset that the art of editing is not only to remove scenes that failed, it is also to accept the act of removing scenes which we find magnificent."
On editing The Ghost Writer while Polanski was imprisoned in Switzerland:

"We had assembled 90% of the film, and we were in the midst of post-syncing during his arrest. He was not under house arrest, but imprisoned. The Warden gave him permission to have a DVD player in his cell. Without a computer, Roman sent me handwritten letters with instructions that I performed to the best of my ability, before sending the results by mail on DVD. I was then allowed to come work with him in a cell for three days."
On the editing of Hollywood films:

"Hollywood and Americans have tended to impose a ratio for the number of shots in a certain time and this rule that editing should be very fast, supposedly to not bore people. But I remain convinced that Jim Jarmusch is still doing much better work than most Hollywood filmmakers. If it takes five jerky shots for an actor to say hello, I don't see how it can still be exciting."
Other News, in Brief

-- Peter Strickland's mind-bending ode to Giallo films, Berberian Sound Studio walked away with four prizes from the British Independent Film Awards, including best director and best actor. Best British film went to Rufus Norris' Broken, while best international independent film went to Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt. Also, Ben Wheatley's Sightseers was awarded best screenplay. Congratulations to all!

-- French erotic film pioneer José Bénazeraf has passed away at the age of 90 in Spain. For the uninitiated (myself included), a good starting point sounds like Le Désirable et le Sublime, which apparently has an orgy scene mixed with quotes from Kierkegaard and Baudelaire. You know, if that's your thing. In any case, rest in peace Mr. Bénazeraf. 


-- Finally, if you aren't following the genius Michael Haneke parody account on Twitter (@Michael_Haneke), you should get on top of that, if only to keep a bit of laughter in the back of your mind when Amour makes you want to give up on life. Most recent tweet: "this year i wantd 2 dekorate my christmas tree with all of my awards. sadly i cudnt find a tree big enough lol"

Box Office

While Rise of the Guardians more or less bombed in the states, it only bombed in some of the EU! In fact, it took the number one spot, effectively dethroning the new Twilight, in France ($4.7 million) and Italy ($2.9 million). Even the success in these two countries brings up an interesting pattern: between this film and recent sequels to Ice Age and Madagascar, it seems like CGI family movies are almost becoming more reliable international exports than star-driven blockbusters.

That said, Skyfall has now become the highest grossing film in the UK of all time, with a total gross of £94.3 (and rising). That's one less country under Avatar's stranglehold. In local, independently produced box office news, Greece gave its number one spot to What If..., a romantic drama which takes place in two parallel universes and addresses the Greek financial crisis.  France's much-hyped drama about a Mad Men-era woman learning to become the world's greatest typist (Seriously.), Populaire, opened decently at number three, taking in $2.7 million.

Around the Internet:
  • mightyjoeyoung

    "What's even more troubling are some of the sample answers. As you may see from the link below, they range from ill-informed to borderline incoherent. My favorite is: "I am normally strict about what I consider acceptable, but while it is not acceptable, I was about to let it happen and I could watch it, so it might be acceptable."

    You could say that again, Mr Clark...maybe Kirby Dick should do a documentary about this, could be interesting.

    "On Francis Ford Coppola's vision for Tess"

    Maybe Coppola got so burned on The Conversation (1974) that he stopped liking sublime films like that, who knows, glad they didn´t listen to him.

    "-- Peter Strickland's mind-bending ode to Giallo films, Berberian Sound Studio walked away with four prizes from the British Independent Film Awards, including best director and best actor."

    "while best international independent film went to Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt."

    I haven´t seen these yet, something to look forward to in 2013, I guess.

    "You know, if that's your thing."
    Erotic films, Mr Clark, has always been my thing.
    Thanks for the wrap up, Mr Clark.

  • Truth

    Had to let the tories in again didn't you britain!

  • mortis rex

    "Tom Six adding three extra rape scenes to The Human Centipede 3 script"

    God bless his soul.

    "they're about to step up their game even more"

    Go ahead... it only means more free publicity, higher dvd/blu-ray sales numbers for movies that would'nt have made such a huge impact otherwise. Please BBFC; do your absolute worst. I'll be seeing you folks... IN HELL!!!!!!

  • Eric Trylinski

    I don't really understand the big stink about censoring these films, they aren't exactly shoved down the publics throat. You usually have to want to see them enough to seek them out, and if you are seeking them out you don't need to be protected.

  • Eric Trylinski

    Are there plans for a home video release of the newly restored Tess?

  • Brian Clark

    Pathé released a DVD in France just last week -- I'm not sure what the plans for U.S. are but I'm sure it's on its way.

  • Eric Trylinski

    Awesome! Thanks!

  • Juan Andrés Valencia

    Really? They are using The New York Ripper as a guideline for censorship?! It may be mysoginistic but it's so ridiculously sleazy that I can't take it seriously (A killer that sounds like Donald Duck, a victim that writes "SHIT" with her lipstick after getting stabbed, a footjob, etc.).

  • Brian Clark

    That was a huge exclamation point for me too. It's strange that they hand picked that one when none of the other ones go back more than a few years. Maybe someone on the censorship board is haunted by it from their youth? I wonder what clip they used.

  • Juan Andrés Valencia

    The razor scene probably. It is cringe worthy but it's nothing compared to what you can see in The Bunny Game or even A Serbian Film.

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