Valenti defends ratings system at Deauville fest

Prexy predicts quotas will be obsolete

DEAUVILLE, France — Motion Picture Assn. of America chairman Jack Valenti predicts that in three to five years, “all quota systems will be obsolete” due to the explosion of the Internet and offshoot delivery systems.

“How can you regulate something whose shape and form is not fully discernible?” Valenti mused during his annual visit to the American Film Festival here, his 25th. Nonetheless, Valenti said he believes the next round of international trade talks that kick off in Seattle in November will be cordial and productive.

No ratings changes

Valenti reiterated his support for the MPAA’s movie rating system. “Right now, I plan no changes in the ratings system. Why? The people for whom it was designed find overwhelmingly that it is working for them. You’d have to be a complete idiot to tamper with something so many people find so useful.”

Valenti says any new category — such as the ‘A’ for ‘Adult’ suggested by film critic Roger Ebert — “will take on the patina of the films that inhabit it,” rendering the distinction between NC-17 and the new heading irrelevant. Valenti also maintains that legal advisors say lawsuits would result if the producer of “an erotic soft porn title like ‘Debby Does Wichita Falls’ decide they’re being discriminated against when the board gives it an NC-17 instead of an A.”

Valenti, who champions “each and every individual’s freedom to tell whatever story they want to tell” emphasizes that “only three nations on earth — Germany, Japan and the U.S. — don’t have government censorship of film.”

To French critics who have had a field day ridiculing the MPAA’s move to mask portions of the orgy sequence in Kubrick’s final film, Valenti says, “Puritans founded America. That’s colored American culture and attitudes. These things vary — in certain Middle Eastern countries it’s a mortal sin for a woman to reveal her face in public.”

“I go into any negotiation with an open mind,” he said. “As one who wears proudly the Legion of Honor I think it’s wonderful that the French want to protect their language. That’s glorious.”

Artistic integrity

The French also want to protect the quality and diversity of their agriculture, as representatives of another lobby made clear during the fest’s opening weekend. While Valenti received reporters in his hotel suite, the Deauville boardwalk was crowded with supporters of the “Confederation Paysanne” (Farmer’s Confederation) movement. The jailing of pro-farm activist Jose Bove — for dismantling a McDonald’s restaurant under construction — has sparked impressive protests across the nation. The city of Deauville authorized the protesters to occupy the waterfront on Sept. 4 with stands selling tasty examples of old-fashioned, non-industrial produce.

“Movie moguls and industrial bigwigs love to get away to the French countryside in their helicopters to hear the birdies sing and sample our superior food,” a spokesman explained. “The great men of the world want to deregulate everything and rape the consumer. The cultural exception must be protected and confirmed.”