Mapplethorpe-themed telepic steers clear of NC-17

The MPAA has given Showtime’s “Dirty Pictures,” which centers on the 1990 obscenity indictment involving a Robert Mapplethorpe photography exhibit, an R rating. The pic’s initial rating had been NC-17.

Receiving an R frees Showtime to air the film during primetime hours. The premium cabler has agreements with some cable carriers that exclude showing NC-17 rated material before a certain hour.

“I think we met with some honest brokers at the MPAA, and they told us what their concerns were,” said Showtime president Jerry Offsay. “They understood what this movie was about and were sensitive to the story we were trying to tell.”

“Dirty Pictures” is based on the experiences of Dennis Barrie, the director of Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center, who was indicted for “pandering obscenity and illegal use of a minor in nudity-related material” when the CAC hosted the late Mapplethorpe’s “Perfect Moment” photography exhibit.

The seven disputed images, which were in the exhibit and also led to the ratings problem, were part of Mapplethorpe’s homoerotic and sadomasochistic work. One shows a man urinating into another man’s mouth. Another shows a crouched, semi-naked Mapplethorpe with a bullwhip dangling from his anus. Two depict children with their genitals exposed.

The inherent graphic nature of the photos — no matter how briefly they’re seen — slams up against the pic’s need to show the photos in order to illustrate what the court case is about.

Offsay said that all seven images are still seen in the film “clearly and distinctly,” but the number of times and the duration has been reduced.

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