Derek Cianfrance's "Blue Valentine" made its UK debut this weekend at the BFI London Film Festival, where it was met with the resounding approval it's already found at the dozen or so festivals it has screened at since debuting in Sundance this past January. Featuring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in career-best performances, "Valentine" depicts the pair as a married couple whose relationship is severely deteriorating. It marks the culmination of over a decade of work for Cianfrance, who clearly seems touched by the consistently glowing receptions.
"With my first film 'Brother Tied' I used to get off the plane at festivals and there'd be like six people in the audience," he said in London this weekend. "But here with 'Blue Valentine' it's been such a different experience. There's more exposure to the film and people are a little more excited about it... To spend 12 years on something and have it be received this way is a validation to all that stubbornness all these years."
Unfortunately, there was one recent reaction to the film that neither Cianfrance or the film's U.S. distributor - The Weinstein Company - are likely to feel particularly validated by. Two weeks ago, the internet was abuzz with the surprising news that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had given the film an "NC-17" rating. Consensus quickly and clearly suggested the MPAA had made an unfair move, and The Weinstein Company has since announced that it would appeal the rating.
"We were shocked by it, in all honesty," Cianfrance told indieWIRE about the MPAA's decision. "I think we made a very respectful film. It's not exploitative. It's honest, it's intimate... it leaves a lot to people's imaginations. And we're going to fight it. We all respect the MPAA and the work that they do but we think that this decision is wrong."
Cianfrance said that he fully believes that the cut that the MPAA slapped with an "NC-17" - the same cut that screened in London this weekend - is the version of the film "everybody should see."
Whether that ends up being the case or not, Cianfrance seems to have already found a silver lining.
"The positive to take from all of this is the support that people have offered," he said sincerely. "I have been surprised and honored that so many people have come to the defence of the film. There's nobody in the press or the public that have seen the film that seem to agree with the decision."
It will also be interesting to see if ratings boards from other countries agree with the decision. In the UK, for example, the film has yet to be rated. The UK's system (the British Board of Film Classification) has a similar "18" rating which restricts audience members under the age of 18 (even if they have a parent accompanying them). Examples of recent films that were given this rating include "Jackass," "Machete," and "Inglourious Basterds," all primarily for violence. The MPAA, meanwhile, gave each of those films more relaxed "R" ratings, which allows children under 17 to see the films with a parent.
Oddly enough, Pedro Almodovar's "Bad Education" - which was rating "NC-17" in the United States for "explicit sexual content," was given a more relaxed "15" rating in the UK.
"Valentine" will continue to screen at the BFI London Film Festival this week and then continues on to fests including Austin, AFI and Canberra. Its due to be released theatrically in the United States December 31st.