Rightwing Film Geek

Not ‘Recut’ enough, apparently

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THE PASSION RECUT debuted this weekend, although ironically it will play in theaters without having an MPAA rating — a practice usually reserved for independently-made films with subtitles and a small-fry distributor. Well … you know what I mean. On the new film’s Web site, Mel Gibson says in the intro clip that he was responding to people who wanted to take “Aunt Martha, Uncle Harry, or your grandmother or some of your older kids … [but] thought that the intensity of the film was prohibitive to those people.” But Scott Von Doviak of the Fort Worth Star Telegram (can’t find article now) makes a valid point about THE PASSION’s intensity — Gibson’s stated concern.

In any case, there’s no way a few missing minutes can substantially alter the overall tone and intensity. If Aunt Martha couldn’t handle it the first time around, she’ll find that the recut is no church picnic, either.

Yes. Tone and intensity are things that require more than minor tinkering to affect.

But what is funniest about this rerelease is that the film’s phenomenal box-office success came despite the handicap of an R rating (PASSION was the biggest-grossing R-rated film of all time). Gibson was hoping to get a PG-13 for THE PASSION RECUT — “some of your older kids” — but failed. At least the largest Canadian province (Ontario) did not change its rating either. So as a result, for probably the first time ever, a recut version of an R-rated film, one already out on video, is going into theaters unrated. Frankly though, it’s hard for me to see why Newmarket couldn’t accept an R-rating for RECUT. The film’s been retitled; everyone is aware of the new film and its basic rationale (“bring along Aunt Martha”). I really don’t think the same rating is gonna cause much confusion. And perversely, the lack of a rating will hurt the film at the box office, since many theaters (particularly in malls and shopping centers) have codes and policies against showing unrated (or NC-17) films.

So we have a case where in order to get a *less* violent version out, a director refused a rating at all (the reverse has happened a lot with indie and foreign films), and will probably lose money over that decision. Huh? This release is one of the oddest exhibits in the ongoing case of the irrationality of the American ratings system, America’s cultural reactions to “adult material,” and the increasingly extreme content of R-rated films. FWIW, I think THE PASSION (along with the majority of R-rated films today) should have been rated NC-17 and that NC-17 films should be as widely available as R-rated ones. But the big movie distributors and studios are not willing to accept widely a rating that says categorically “you cannot take this person’s money”; a broad section of the public is not willing to acknowledge that there is such a thing as a movie that is flatly inappropriate for children, but not shameful for adults; and another broad section of the public is phobic about “censorship” and “free expression” and takes “pushing the envelope” as a term of praise.

March 12, 2005 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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