Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jennifer Lynch reacts to her NC-17 rating for 'Chained'


Steven Zeitchik

On Tuesday, the filmmakers behind "Chained," a movie about a serial killer starring Vincent D’Onofrio, saw the Motion Picture Assn. of America deny their appeal of an NC-17 rating by a vote of 9 to 4.

On Wednesday, director Jennifer Lynch told 24 Frames she will recut the scene -- a graphic depiction of a woman having her throat slit open -- that landed the movie the MPAA's harshest rating. But she didn't sound like a filmmaker who understood, or was happy about, the group's decision.

"The one thing they [the appeals board] kept citing was context, that violence in a lot of other films doesn't feel as intense," she said. "I have a lot of compassion for what [the MPAA] does. And they were all very nice and warm in the room. But it doesn't seem fair to me. I feel like we are being punished because the film was done the way it was set out to be done, which was authentically."

The film's distributor, Anchor Bay Entertainment, said it has yet to decide whether it will also release an unrated version to theaters (presumably after the rated version has finished its run, per MPAA rules) or, possibly, release the unrated version on DVD. Lynch's movie centers on a serial-killing cab driver (D’Onofrio) who murders a boy's mother and then attempts to make the boy his protege; the boy must then decide whether he wants to follow in the killer's footsteps. The film has not yet been dated for release.

Kevin Carney, the Anchor Bay executive who argued the appeal alongside Lynch, said that he also was flummoxed by the MPAA's decision. He said he watched a number of movies to prepare for the appeal, including the torture-porn picture "Hostel 3," and didn't understand why that film had got an R rating while "Chained" was given the NC-17.

"There were horrific scenes [in 'Hostel 3'] that I can't get out of my head, but what the [MPAA] kept saying is that it was context, which seems arbitrary," Carney said. "Compare our movie to 'Sweeney Todd,' where 13 or 14 people get their throat slit. There's an equal amount of graphic-ness. It's just a different style."

The MPAA's context argument may elicit skepticism from some of the organization's observers, because the group has often said it strips away those concerns when evaluating a film. In the case of the recent controversy over the R rating for "Bully," for instance, filmmakers said they were told by the organization that it couldn't lower the rating for profane language simply on the basis of the profanities' context.

Lynch, the daughter of director David Lynch and a filmmaker whose movies often contain violent themes, has had her tangles with the MPAA before. She landed an NC-17 nearly 20 years ago for a decapitation scene in her debut picture, "Boxing Helena."

She said she thinks that many other blood-soaked movies get an R because they don't strive for the same intensity as her films -- a false distinction, she believes, that rewards a casual attitude toward violence.

"What you’re doing with the NC-17 is making a very potent statement that no kids should see this movie no matter what, even though kids can see [R-rated] movies where violence is sexy and funny," she said. "And I don't think it should be OK for kids to see violence just because it's sexy and funny."

She added, "As a parent, I don't make the distinction that it's OK for my daughter to see something if it's laughed at as opposed to something that's real and affecting."

The MPAA is sometimes criticized for going too lightly on violence, giving movies with comparable amounts of sex or language a harsher rating. Indeed, the reason offered by the group for the NC-17 on "Chained" was a phrase one doesn't see alongside that rating very often: "some explicit violence."

The group has been more willing to hand out the NC-17 of late. Another film, "Killer Joe," received an NC-17 in March, in that instance for "graphic aberrant content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality."

Lynch said she knew that the stigma of the NC-17 was too great to risk a commercial release with that rating. But she hopes film-goers check out her uncut version of "Chained," if only for comparison's sake. "Horror fans will see it and be stunned at the NC-17," she said. "They've seen much worse.


Rose said...

The context of a woman's throat being slit, okay. I would like authentic as well, since this is a movie about a killer, so, is the performance of this throat slitting so intense, that the majority of people won't be able to handle this? I hate it when sex and violence is added just to make things more exciting or interesting, if it is needed then put it in, if it is put in just for the shock value and it doesn't add to the story, then don't. Have to say that I would think sex and violence would have both been a factor in this movie, but just the violence? And I'm sure we all have seen much worse violence, those Hostile movies, my one daughter really liked the first one, didn't care much for the second and didn't bother with the third, and I have not seen any of them, so no point of reference.

Nantz said...

I can understand determining a movie's rating as a guide for parents...and other people too...but to deny access to said film should ultimately be the decision of the parent whether their 17 year old should see it or not. And, like I've said before, there is no sugarcoating the characteristics of a serial killer. Also, it is a matter of what one person's idea of offensive content is compared to another's. The Holocaust and all of the movies depicting the horrific atrocities that happened could not be told in any other way then the true facts. You wouldn't have a scene showing the Jewish people going to the 'showers' with a towel and a bar of soap because that's not reality. The fact that 'Chained' has a character that portrays Bob's mother might mean that there is some animosity towards her that has manifested itself into his serial killings. Not about sex but rage. I will look forward to seeing the Director's cut over the watered down version. If Vincent brought his A game I want to see it.

JoJo said...

Women can be shown in full frontal nudity and only get an R rating. This does seem to be arbitrary. There have been lots and lots of graphic flicks that only get an R. Really horrific violence and gore.

Rose said...

There is imo no reason to sugarcoat reality, if one can't accept certain topics, then one should not see a movie, TV show or read a book that you would find offensive. And yes, a parent should determine the movies, TV shows that are appropriate for your kids, but again, if you say no, they will watch it at a friend's house, no doubt.

Nantz said...

'High Tension' received an NC-17 rating because of its throat-slitting scene...very graphic, but it's on YouTube for all the world to see. Eventually, people will see what they will want to see if they are determined enough. This is about box office and Jennifer's hands are tied.

Rose said...

And I really liked High Tension, didn't even pay attention to the rating when I bought the DVD. Whenever it is released, we are looking forward to seeing it, have a date with my daughter for this one. Kind of scary when you step back and think how as a society we enjoy our violence whether it is movies or video games, and yet my family, friends and myself, we aren't violent people at all, maybe it is a release, but whatever it is, still enjoy this genre of movies.

TJara said...

You know, this one scene might be very icky, and maybe cutting that once scene differently will tone down the movie a bit. However, I'm still a bit irked about the MPAA in general - so many action movies receive PG-13, simply cause you never see the effects of the violence... like that's something you can to teach children. In general, the MPAA usually comlpains about nudity when rating R or NC-17 - which actually makes this rating stand out... ;-)

And while I'm all for ratings as a "guideline", I think it's rahter curious that some theatres and sellers will not carry NC-17, which to me means it is a synonym for being porn rather than violence alone. Which again seriously questions the previous conduct by the MPAA.

Nantz said...

I agree, Hannah, this new verbiage of calling it 'NC-17' is really the old 'X' rating reserved for sexually explicit material. You can turn on your TV news and see graphic violence more so than seeing graphic sex which is more likely seen on cable. This seems like Hollywood politics of suppressing the independent film/horror film industry.

vikeau said...

Reading Jennifer Lynch's comment really put the whole NC=17 rating in context. Again after seeing the trailer, I would be hard pressed to take a young person to see this film. But then again, if you know your child and their level of maturity, then as the parent it should be your choice, period. On the other hand this is not a movie I would take my mother to see, regardless of the rating.