Thursday, January 25, 2007

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Kirby Dick | 2006 | 97 min | USA

This documentary is a look at the clandestine world of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings board which establishes content ratings for feature films in the US. Several controversial filmmakers who have butted heads with the ratings board are interviewed, and even more interesting, several clips that were excised from their films to avoid the dreaded NC-17 rating are featured. This Film looks closely at how gay and lesbian material seems to be specifically targeted by the board for cuts. The most remarkable moments of the doc show several famous hetero-friendly sex scenes from Hollywood films in diptych with comparable queer scenes that were censored.

Dick also spends a great deal of the film following a pair of private investigators who are hired to uncover the identities of ratings board and appeals board members. The investigations are amusing, but are the least captivating scenes of the film. I think the doc would have been much better served spending more time with the filmmaker interviews. The final quarter of the film follows Dick's journey through the bizarre appeals process with an early cut of the movie we are watching. The payoff for following the private investigation scenes comes at this point as he reveals the identities of the appeals board members. Their positions as some of the most powerful film buyers for theater chains, studio heads, and even clergymen reveal the amazing hypocrisy in the ranks of a supposedly independent board operating purely to inform the public of film content.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated is clever and should be interesting to cinema buffs. I enjoyed the NC-17 clips and accompanying commentary a great deal. It also has a nice design and editing style, which is lacking in all too many documentaries of any stripe. It's a fun film, but I found it is a little too meandering and shallow for me to recommend paying the big bucks to see in a theatre. It will be considerably easier to find this one on video in a couple months, anyway.

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