Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2013 Palme d’Or winner, Blue Is The Warmest Color, lost its French operating visa today when a Paris court ruled that the film contains “realistic sex scenes likely to offend the sensibilities of a young audience.” The lesbian love story that stars Spectre‘s Léa Seydoux, originally was given a -12 rating, meaning anyone over 12 could see it. That rating now will be reconsidered by the Classification Commission, but the court’s decision also will be appealed.
This latest controversy was stirred up by Promouvoir, a conservative-values group that increasingly has been calling on the Administrative Court of Paris to reverse ratings the group deems inappropriate. Other targets have included Gaspar Noé’s Love, Virginie Despentes’ Baise-Moi, Universal’s Fifty Shades Of Grey and Lars von Trier’s two Nymphomaniac films. The group first asked for Blue‘s visa to be pulled in September 2014.
Influential writers/directors/producers group ARP is outraged at the court’s decision. In a statement, it said members were “stupefied” that the court agreed with the “shameful arguments” of a “decidedly obscurantist association.”
The next step will be for the Classification Commission to revisit its ratings call — Promouvoir wants it upped to -18 — but there will be an appeal, the Culture Minister has told ARP. In theory, the economic impact here is minimal. If the rating changes, then it would have to change on all forms under which the film is exploited. It’s been out of theaters for nearly two years, so that would mean DVD, VOD, etc. It would also mean that it can’t be shown on television at certain hours.
The bigger issue at hand, however, is the ratings system — which ARP says needs a complete overhaul — and the growing power of Promouvoir. France generally has been pretty relaxed when it comes to sex; by comparison, Blue carried an NC-17 in the U.S. But there have been more decisions reversed recently as Promouvoir wins favor with the courts. Yet, when Noé’s Love saw its rating upped from -16 to -18 mid-run, Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval told me of Promouvoir, “It’s a fake association that’s really just one person who relies on an old text to systematically attack the Minister’s visas, asking the Administrative Court to annul them.” Wild Bunch also handled Blue Is The Warmest Color. Maraval generally is pretty outspoken but has not commented on this latest decision.
It’s not only sex that Promouvoir is interested in battling. In a previous instance, the group was able to get the rating for Saw 3D changed to NC-17 — nearly five years after its release. Ratings are suggested by the Classification Commission within the national cinema body, the CNC. The Culture Minister then has the last word.
ARP concluded today that the current state of the ratings system “exposes each film to such legal risks” and said it can’t be left as is “any more than we can allow our culture and creative freedom to be subject to the yoke of moralist tendencies by which the world seems more and more affected.”