NYC's IFC Center Ignoring MPAA's Rating for 'Blue', Will Admit Teens
"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 And why are theaters still following this out-of-date guideline to begin with?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.