Wednesday, July 27, 2005


A Very British Farce

The other day, I passed comment upon the VAC verdict about nine hardcore sex films whose distributors had applied for 18 certificates, but whose works had received R18 certificates. Since I wrote that piece, more details about the decision have come to light. Further comment upon the decision was made by Mark Kermode here. I want to offer a few thoughts:

'According to the ruling, the Board's guidelines state that in general "if the video work shows simulated sex without graphic detail it will be classed as 18, but if it shows real sex the category will be R18." Yet both 9 Songs, and the Euro-shocker Baise-Moi, were passed at 18 despite containing images of "unsimulated sex", and this, according to the appellants, was proof of an "inconsistency" in the BBFC rulings.'

The Board need to draw up new guidelines for the distinctions between 18 and R18. If they're happy to pass works which contain real sex at 18, provided they have a 'story' then fine. Both 9 Songs and Baise-Moi were correctly certificated, in my view. Certainly, in the case of the latter, where the real sex forms a part of the 'horror' of the piece, selling it in a sex shop would have been to clearly send the message that the images of rape and defilement contained therein were intended to be erotic. If, however, we accept that films like 9 Songs and Baise-Moi should be certificated at 18, then there needs to be very clear explanations as to why, so that if, in future, porn producers wish to get a product on the shelves at 18, they know how far to go. Why, for example, can 9 Songs get an 18, yet Tinto Brass can't? Fascinatingly, when submitted in 2004, the BBFC imposed cuts on Tinto Brass 4, and in their explanation, said:

'The context in which explicit imagery occurs is a key factor in the BBFC’s decisions. But every work is different and it is not possible to list the sort of situations which justify real sex at ‘18’.'

Little help of clarification soon then.

'Referring to the porn tapes, the VAC concluded that they "contain no story line" and "are really nothing except a vehicle to show graphic sex." Viewers of 9 Songs, which consists of a series of graphic sex scenes intercut with rock concert footage and pretty views of Antarctica may be surprised to hear that Winterbottom's self-consciously arty movie actually had a "narrative".'

Too true. Of course porn films are vehicles to show graphic sex - we all know that. The crucial point, however, is that all real sex appears in films self-consciously. Filming real sex, as opposed to simulated sex, requires a whole different approach, and no real sex ever got in a film by accident. Therefore, 9 Songs and Romance are as guilty of being vehicles to show graphic sex as catering For All Tastes - Finger Buffet For Six.

'In his traditionally flamboyant submission, Robertson also made two marvelously ribald assertions which bear repeating. Firstly, he pointed out that masturbation has been proven to reduce incidences of prostate cancer, and since pornography was an aid to masturbation, porn by default effectively "provided protection against prostate cancer". Brilliant!'

Looks like the law of tangential connections at work. I mean, come on: when has porn been needed to masturbate? Whatever happened to a bit of imagination?

'For the moment, the BBFC can relax, safe in the knowledge that it's back to business as usual for the R-18 certificate. As for Ben Dover, presumably he's out there right now, shooting snowbound landscapes and grainy concert footage to splice into Cumming Of Age Volume Three in the hope that someone can be bamboozled into thinking it's art.'

You've just got to love that paragraph.

Anyway, in a rather hilarious twist, some have been proposing that pornographers should start pretending to have stories again. Hmmm. Let's wait and see, shall we?

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