Oz rejects ‘Romance’

Distrib vows appeal of censor board's vote

SYDNEY — Although deemed suitable for screening in North America and Europe, Catherine Breillat’s French-language arthouse film “Romance” has been banned Down Under.

While admitting that “Romance,” which explicitly depicts a woman’s series of sexual adventures, is “a serious work by a serious director,” the Office of Film and Literature Classification voted 9-8 against giving the film a classification, owing to its “explicit depiction of actual sexual activity, an implied depiction of sexual violence and adult themes of very high intensity.”

The ruling precludes pic’s local distrib, Potential Films, from releasing it theatrically.

“It is quite a serious film that has played uncut in many modern countries around the world,” Potential topper Mark Spratt told reporters, adding that he’ll appeal the decision.

Breillat has reportedly written to the censors saying that she is “very shocked” by the decision, noting that the film was released in more conservative nations such as Ireland and Turkey. The decision came as neighboring New Zealand passed the film uncut.

The film fell foul of Australia’s theatrical releasing classification guidelines, which specifically prohibit actual sexual activities onscreen.

But more liberal festival classification guidelines allowed the film three unspoolings at last year’s Melbourne Film Festival. These screenings did not generate any complaint — indicating, critics say, that censors are not reflecting community standards.

Moreover, the close decision implies that there isn’t agreement among the members of the censorship panel on the standards being applied.

Such major distributors as UIP and Roadshow believe censors’ scissors have been working overtime as they have applied tougher guidelines to deliver harsher decisions than in Europe since the 1996 election of the conservative federal government.

The conservatives have repeatedly condemned smut on Oz screens. As a result, TV networks have drafted tighter guidelines, which they admitted mean movies have to “take a more substantial trim.”

In 1998, after government appeals, censors reviewed the classification of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Salo” and banned it, while last year, government ministers loudly condemned censors for allowing Adrian Lyne’s “Lolita” to be theatrically released with an over-18s R rating.

But the conservatives’ implications that the electorate wants tougher censorship looked dubious when the government last year appointed community assessment panels to review censors’ decisions, after implying that censors were too lenient. The panels agreed with most of the censors’ decisions and even found some of them to be too harsh.

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