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ROMANCE

BAN FANS FIRES OF CENSORSHIP
As expected, French film, Romance, has been banned in Australia - and the public doesn't like it, nor does The Australian (19/1/2000), which attacked the ban on its front page, quoting five randomly chosen members of the public who were shown the film at The Australian. The paper ran three more stories on page 4, and attacked the underlying social immaturity of which the ban is a symptom. And as The Australian pointed out, the film has not been banned anywhere else.

Romance, Catherine Breillat's cinematic vision of one woman's self-determined sexual journey, has been refused classification, which effectively bans the film from commercial release, even though it has already had public screenings at Melbourne's film festival and commercial seasons in several other countries - including religiously conservative Ireland.

"Romance is a serious art movie," Jake Wilson

"Romance is a serious art movie," comments Urban Cinefile's Melbourne critic, Jake Wilson, "that's also genuinely pornographic, in that it makes frank use of graphic sex and nudity rather than sticking to the conventional, acceptable ways of showing love and sex in movies. This makes it an unusual, confronting film that a lot of people would be interested to see (the Melbourne festival session I attended was packed out). That it's been banned here is depressing but not surprising in the current climate."

In The Australian, film writer Lynden Barber writes: "Romance demands and deserves to be taken seriously. For example, when Caroline Ducey's frustrated schoolteacher heroine has sex with a stranger she has met in a bar. . . her unimpressed murmuring that she hates "guys who screw me" neatly undermines the porn convention whereby all women are ready and thankful for the sexuality of all men."

Naturally, the film's distributors, Potential Films, and exhibitor Alex Meskovic are disappointed, appalled - and appealing the ban.

"It's like being in Australia in 1855," says Meskovic. "The film has been released in all the countries in New Zealand, Europe and Britain, Ireland, Turkey, South Korea, Mexico, Canada and USA. The Commonwealth censor has decided to deny the Australian public to see this film, that was shown three times at the Melbourne Film Festival, nominated as Best Foreign Film at the British Independent Film Awards and had a major showcase at last year's Rotterdam Festival."

"over six weeks to deliver its decision"

The Office of Film and Literature Classification took over six weeks to deliver its decision, after strenuous efforts to screen the film for each of its members. This plan was to avoid the embarrassment the Office endured when after only three of its members saw Adrian Lyne's Lolita, that, too, was banned on the negative vote of just two members. A final vote on Romance is reported to have been close - 9 to 8 against classification.

The same old arguments will now be paraded during the appeal: the adult public's right to decide what to see against the public's right to be protected from actual depictions of the sex act. Simulated depictions are OK to be shown. The warnings of an R rating are not deemed enough to alert those who would be offended by the material in the film.

"We can be thankful that the Office was not active during the Renaissance," comments Editor Andrew L. Urban. "We doubtless would have had to ban many of Michelangelo's works - or have him put clothes on the statue of David to hide his penis. I'm not quite sure what paternalistic social objective is served by such an outdated act as a ban."

Produced by Flach Film, CB Films and Arte France Cinema, in collaboration with Centre National de la Cinematographie and Canal +, Romance is written by Severine Siaut and directed by Breillat.

"should adults be able to chose?"

Have your say on the principle of banning a film: should adults be able to chose whether to see a film, with appropriate ratings (like R) and warnings - or should a committee make the decision for us? Send an EMAIL with 'Romance' in the subject field.

Email this article

Have your say on the principle of banning a film: should adults be able to chose whether to see a film, with appropriate ratings (like R) and warnings - or should a committee make the decision for us? Send an EMAIL with 'Romance' in the subject field.

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