Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Irish Classification Office not “set to ban” Palme d’Or winner

In a shock development, there are — despite fulminations in the Daily Star — no plans afoot to ban “steamy lesbian flick” Blue is the Warmest Colour.

Tue, Jun 4, 2013, 15:42


You have to love this story from the Daily Star concerning Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour. The paper reports that “Irish cinema censors are set to ban a movie for the first time in a decade”. There is no evidence to support this stunning statement. There is not even a suggestion of any general move towards a tightening up of film censorship. The truth is that, over the last decade and a half, the Irish Film Classification Office has shown no great desire to ban anything. A kind of rubicon was crossed in 2004 when the Office passed Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs with an 18 certificate. That film featured (cover your eyes, mother) graphic scenes of penetration and ejaculation. The sex sequences in  Blue is the Warmest Colour — winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes — are longer and noisier than those in the Winterbottom film, but they are no more explicit. It would, frankly, be astonishing if Kechiche’s picture were banned. No meaningful discussion can, however, even begin at this stage. The film has only just been acquired for distribution by Artificial Eye. It does not have a release date yet and will go nowhere near IFCO for at least a month (and probably longer).

This is not to suggest that controversy is not gathering. Julie Maroh, author of the source graphic novel, has complained about those sex scenes. “The heteronormative laughed because they don’t understand it and find the scene ridiculous,” she said. “The gay and queer people laughed because it’s not convincing, and [they] found it ridiculous. And among the only people we didn’t hear giggling were the potential guys too busy feasting their eyes on an incarnation of their fantasies on screen.” I can only say that there was nobody laughing near me (though those scenes do go on just a bit).

Another claim in the Star story deserves some clarification. “One of the earliest victims of our censors was Woody Allen, whose film Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex was banned 1973, and is still barred from our cinemas,” the piece states. We’ll dance past the bizarre statement that Allen was one of “the earliest victims” — by that point the state had been banning films for half a century —  and deal with this notion that the picture “is still barred from our cinemas”. If that is the case it is simply because the distributor has never bothered to resubmit it for theatrical distribution. Nobody in IFCO wants to ban Woody Allen. It is highly unlikely that the body will ban Blue is the Warmest Colour. Still, anything is possible, I suppose. (We said they were “not set to ban”. We didn’t say they were “set to not ban”.)  I do not, however, expect to be eating my hat any time soon.