Dissecting the current film ratings system with amusing impertinence, Kirby Dick’s This Film Is Not Yet Rated proves to be a Molotov cocktail leveled against the Jack Valenti-led Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and their protocol of secretive, hypocritical, arbitrary, and moralizing censorship of “mature” material. Appalled by the inconsistency and confidentiality of the ratings process, Dick embarks on a two-pronged exposé strategy, detailing filmmakers’ horror stories about struggling to avoid dreaded R or NC-17 designations, as well as documenting his own battles with, and efforts to unmask the carefully guarded identities of, the “average” American parents who comprise the MPAA’s assessment board. It’s the former endeavor that reaps more substantive rewards, as the anecdotes of Kimberley Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry), Atom Egoyan (Where the Truth Lies), and John Waters (A Dirty Shame), among others, accumulate to form a damning portrait of a system in which—because NC-17 films receive little newspaper and television ad space and limited theatrical releases—the financial fate of an artist’s work hinges upon often irrational and unchallengeable judgments. Familiar arguments about the MPAA’s preferential treatment toward violence over sex, as well as for hetero over homo lovemaking, are enlivened by Dick’s wealth of damning film clip evidence—including a hilariously astute side-by-side comparison of R and NC-17 sex scenes—with his snappily presented factoids and a South Park-ish animated sequence (regarding when “shit” and “fuck” are permissible) highlighting the inanity of the group’s guidelines. This Film Is Not Yet Rated‘s interest in revealing the names and faces of MPAA raters (a plot executed with the aid of a private eye) ultimately comes at the expense of putting forward significant alternatives to the current status quo, with intriguing ideas—such as a First Amendment lawyer’s controversial opinion that government oversight would be preferable to industry self-regulation—left unexplored in favor of more dramatic (yet less insightful) segments such as one involving the director and his sleuth sifting through sidewalk bags of garbage to find Memoirs of a Geisha questionnaires. But if not willing to posit a workable solution, Dick’s cheekily enraged docu-indictment nonetheless irreverently lays bare our existing cinematic ratings establishment’s myriad failings.
- IFC Films
- 97 min
- Kirby Dick
- Kirby Dick, Eddie Schmidt
- Kirby Dick, Allison Anders, David Ansen, Darren Aronofsky, Maria Bello, Atom Egoyan, Mary Harron, Wayne Kramer, Kimberly Peirce, Bingham Ray, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, John Waters
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