A ‘Toto’ act of censorship

Italo commission blocks release of pic

ROME — The national commission of film censors this week refused classification to “Toto Who Lived Twice,” effectively banning the pic from national release — the most clamorous case of censorship in Italy since Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Last Tango in Paris” and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom.”

“Toto,” a low-budget independent production from Sicilian directing duo Daniele Cipri and Franco Maresco, was due to open Friday in Italy through distributor Lucky Red. But after screening the film on Monday, the state censorship commission stepped in to block the release.

The majority of the film’s budget came from government funding, which risks being withdrawn if the film fails to obtain a rating.

“At this point, we’re ruined,” said Maresco. “It’s clear that the film, which is self-produced, won’t make a lira and will also lose its government contribution. We intend to appeal against the censorship commission’s decision, but most importantly, we will fight for our right to show the film to people, who should be free to see it and judge for themselves.”

While the commission’s specific objections to “Toto” have not yet been made public, Cipri and Maresco’s darkly comic visions of a Sicilian wasteland in which humanity has been stripped of its values, morals and dignity have caused heated discussion.

Some of its more eye-opening scenes involve sex with a chicken, an angel being sodomized and a Messiah figure being tossed into a vat of acid.

Lucky Red is hoping the decision will be reversed after subsequent screenings with more liberal censors in the coming weeks.

The historical precedents of the Pasolini and Bertolucci films occurred in the 1970s during the morally uptight era of Christian Democrat rule.

The “Toto” ban represents the first case for many decades of censorship prior to a film’s release, and has prompted a national outcry from filmmakers and film industry organizations calling for changes in the country’s censorship system.

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