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Italo gov’t gives ‘Toto’ a go, targets censors

Bertolucci pic escapes ban, 18 and over can watch

ROME — The surprise decision made earlier this month by Italy’s state censorship commission to ban local production “Toto Who Lived Twice” from national release was reversed Friday by a government appeals board that passed the film for audiences aged 18 and over.

The announcement came the same day that deputy premier Walter Veltroni submitted a bill to parliament that would abolish the right of national film censors to completely veto a release.

Along with the majority of the Italian film industry and many key media and cultural figures, Veltroni was an outspoken critic of the board’s initial decision. He stated that the restriction of problematic films to adult audiences was sufficient censorship for any release, regardless of content.

Directed by maverick Sicilian filmmaking duo Daniele Cipri and Franco Maresco, “Toto” was blocked just five days prior to its scheduled March 6 release and slammed by the original censorship commission as blasphemous, foul and offensive, scornful toward religious beliefs and a degradation of humanity.

National release of the low-budget, darkly comic journey through a ravaged Sicilian wasteland will now be rescheduled by distributor Lucky Red in the coming weeks.

With a television sale essential to recouping costs on many Italian releases, distribs look unfavorably on the 18 certificate, which prohibits a film from being aired on Italian free TV.

Smith said he intends to lodge a second appeal to reduce the rating on “Toto” to an under-14 certificate, if necessary, on a television version with some minor cuts.

“It is an enormous satisfaction to know we are governed by people that are so sensitive to cultural issues,” said helmer Bernardo Bertolucci. The director experienced the wrath of Italian censors in the 1970s, when the charges of obscenity leveled at his “Last Tango in Paris” led to a two-month prison sentence and the denial of his right to vote for five years.

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