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NYC's IFC Center Ignoring MPAA's Rating for 'Blue', Will Admit Teens

by
October 23, 2013
Source: NY Times

Blue is the Warmest Color

"Love knows no reason, no boundaries, no distance. It has a sole intention of bringing people together to a time called forever." The 2013 Palme d'Or winner and one of the most controversial films of the year is opening in select theaters, even with the MPAA's NC-17 rating, starting this weekend. The film is titled Blue is the Warmest Color, my favorite of Cannes 2013, and one of the best films I've ever seen about love and falling in love. Despite the rating, the IFC Center art house theater in New York City has decided to ignore the MPAA rules and allow anyone, even teens (above age 14 - mostly "high school age" kids), to see the film.

News of the decision comes straight from NY Times (via Indiewire) where they explain the situation. First things first, it helps that Sundance Selects, a division of IFC, is distributing Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Color (watch the trailer) in US theaters, and it's the same company that owns the theater, the IFC Center (on 6th Ave at 3rd Street). The film received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, formerly known as the X rating, and the recommended theatrical policy is that no one under 17 is allowed at all. In France, where the film was made, Blue is the Warmest Color received a "12" rating, which is roughly similar to PG-13 here.

So how did they do this? Well, the Times reminds us the MPAA is not actually a government organization, just a lobbying group. "That [rating] is only, in the end, a recommendation, without legal or contractual force." Why didn't anyone tell us this before?! And why are theaters still following this out-of-date guideline to begin with? Most likely fear of the ramifications and backlash from parents if they didn't follow the rules. But this is the perfect film for them to make an exception and it's IFC (so far the only ones) in NYC, they can do whatever they want. The Flicks Theatre in Idaho took the opposite path - they banned the film entirely.

Before any parents freak out and go after IFC for this insane decision, it's actually not a bad idea at all. The reason it's safe and good to allow kids under 17, teens mainly, is best summed up by Times' critic A.O. Scott:

It’s a movie about a high school student, after all, confronting issues — peer pressure, first love, homework, postgraduate plans — that will be familiar to adolescents and perhaps more exotic to the middle-aged. In spite of linguistic and cultural differences, the main character, moody, self-absorbed and curious, will remind many American girls of themselves, their friends and the heroines of the young adult novels they devour. The content of the film is really no racier that what is found in those books, but our superstition about images designates it as adults-only viewing.

After reading that paragraph about why he supports this decision, there's not much more I can add to top off his statements. I genuinely love Blue is the Warmest Color from a cinephile standpoint, it's a very intimate, very raw look at love, in all its forms, and I've been recommending it because it's one of the best damn love stories you will see on screen all year. Hearing that the IFC Center is saying "screw you!" to the MPAA and opening its doors to any teens under 17 who wants to see it makes me very happy. Happy because, if I was still under 17, I would so be there to see this and finally wouldn't have to worry. Happy because this film deserves all the extra love and support it can get. Before this, I was worried it would end up under-seen this year (mainly due to the never-ending controversy surrounding the director and actors burning people out).

The executive decision at the theater was made by John Vanco, senior vice president and general manager of the IFC Center, who told the Times: "This is not a movie for young children, but it is our judgment that it is not inappropriate for mature, inquiring teenagers who are looking ahead to the emotional challenges and opportunities that adulthood holds." Blue is the Warmest Color contains a few scenes of explicit lesbian sex, shown in context in the love story between Adèle (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (played by Léa Seydoux). It's in my Top 10 of 2013, no question. If you enjoy love stories, see it as soon as possible.

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  • Greg dinskisk
    Soooo glad they're doing this. I love that theater, been there every time I've been to NYC. Also, screw the MPAA. If people haven't seen it yet, THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED is a stellar documentary about them. It's on Netflix Instant, I believe.
  • Jordan Petersen
    Good. It's so dumb that anything with "gayness" or whatever is automatically rated above those who are adolescents. When I was a teen, this frustrated me greatly. Gay love and romance is just like straight love and romance. It doesn't bother me in the slightest, and those who let it are either too self-righteous or just looking to cause trouble. It really is no big deal.
    • Rick
      Wait, this received an NC-17 rating simply because it shows homosexual love scenes? That's ridiculous. It's like rating a film NC-17 because it shows interracial love scenes.
      • David Diaz
        It's rated NC-17 because of the explicit nature of the love scenes, not because it is about lesbians.
  • Nielsen700
    Awesome! Will be seeing the film on saturday.
  • Nathan Williams
    This puts a smile on my face.
  • Chris Groves
    I'm 21, so it is irrelevant what the rating is. I seriously doubt it will be playing in any theater near me, and it's not really a movie I'd make a trip to the theater for. That being said, this is a blow, however small, to the MPAA. For the longest time they've had a sort of stronghold on things. They rate movies how they want, and are held virtually unaccountable for their decisions. The amazing documentary 'This Film is Not Yet Rated' goes into detail about the MPAA's potential shady aspects, how sometime they intend to subjectively hurt certain films. How rating experiences are entirely different for indie films and studio films, etc etc. So I'm glad that in the case of a film about a lesbian relationship(which some in the MPPA MIGHT be morally opposed to) that when they rate it NC-17 in the hope of limiting it's potential(many theaters won't carry NC-17 films, and the restriction keeps many young audiences from seeing them) that at least ONE theater chain has come out and said 'Screw that, we'll decide who we allow in to the film we are showing' It's an incredibly small step, but a big step at the same time, in the direction of potential future reform of the ratings system. For the record, I don't think the current MPAA system is evil or necessarily "broken" but there are certainly some issues that I think might be able to be improved in the overall structure of how things work.
  • grimjob
    I'm glad someone is standing up like this. To hell with the MPAA. Agree with the others here, This Film is Not Yet Rated is a very interesting doc.
  • Linkfx
    The MPAA is like the mob, it isn't a government organization but it might as well be from the perspective of theaters and distributors, and it's really just a way to control profits and protect special interests...from what I understand....in order to get your films into the chain theaters you need MPAA approval, and obviously as a movie company that wants to make a lot of money, you're forced to play their game-unfortunately all the big theaters want lower rating because they sell more tickets and going unrated doesn't sell well to anyone. One theater playing this for anyone should start a trend, but doubtful...honestly the multiplexes really have all the power and they're controlled by the MPAA.
  • IanPullens
    I'm not a fan of the MPAA, so in that sense I'm glad they are being ignored. But regardless of what the theater is willing to do, I would not want kids going to this movie without permission from their parents. There is no way to regulate it of course. But there are R and PG-13 movies I don't my kids to see. It's not about the rating. It's about parenting. And I would prefer to see the film my self first and decide if I want my kids to see it. It's one thing to undermine the MPAA. It's something else to make children believe they have a free pass over the authority of their parents.
    • Wafffles
      I think that's the point: you get the option to decide whether or not your children are prepared to see any given R movie, or PG-13 if they're younger. You do not have the right, in MPAA-adhering theaters, to bring your child to the film if they aren't 17. You may be bringing them to learn the lesson, you may be bringing them because they're mature and can appreciate the art, or yeah, they may just be trying to come to see some racey images. Totally irrelevant. You, a discerning parent, do not have the opportunity to decide, because a roomful of anonymous censors think they know better. I doubt this will be a revolving-door theater event. They're bound to treat it like an R movie, with proper guidance for younger viewers. What they won't be doing, though, is categorically denying theater enthusiasts the opportunity to see the film because they're 16 years and 11 months old.
  • DavideCoppola
    Awesome!
  • David Diaz
    Sure it's well and good to say that it is intended for mature, inquiring teenagers, but you've got to be ignorant if you think 14 year old boys will go an see this for any other reason than to see the lesbian sex scenes.
    • Bryan I
      And you'd have to be even more ignorant to think that a 14 year old boy would pay to see a movie with a few minutes of sex, when they can easily access hours of free porn at home with nothing more than a google search.
      • David Diaz
        You missed my point. The theater is saying the reason they are allowing teenagers to see this is because they think they'll be going into it with the perspective of wanting to learn about the "emotional challenges and opportunities that adulthood holds." My point was that most teenage boys will only go see this for the titillation of two young girls having sex, not for the great emotional or cinematic experience it may offer.
        • cetrata
          I agree with u although even young college age kids are going to see it for the sex scenes, even those 18 and over.
          • David Diaz
            Oh, no doubt. It just seems like such a false pretense to ignore the rating system. Have they ever done that for another NC-17 film, or even an R-rated one for that matter?
          • cetrata
            Teen boys can't get enough images of sex.
  • cobrazombie
    For some reason this reminds me of the entire American Pie 2 lesbians! spotting scene. "Standby for confirmation."

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