In a summer when 'R' rated comedies from Hollywood have become a media sensation, indie distributor ThinkFilm finds itself in the midst of another ratings flap over a new release. After facing a potentially restrictive rating for the foul-mouthed doc "The Aristocrats," and ultimately releasing the movie unrated and uncut, the distributor is appealing a recent 'NC-17' rating for its new acquisition, Atom Egoyan's "Where The Truth Lies." The trouble for the Cannes '05 competition premiere, that will have its North American premiere at the Toronto festival next month, is apparently a three-way sex scene involving stars Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth, and Rachel Blanchard.
"Where The Truth Lies," produced by ThinkFilm chairman Robert Lantos, is described by the distributor as "the story of what happens during a ménage a trios that leads to a girl's death." In the film, Bacon and Firth portray a popular pair of entertainers who, after a night of antics, end up with a dead woman on their hands. Lantos maintains that keeping the offending scene in tact is crucial to the movie. "This scene is done using a single sustained mastershot in order to allow the actors the most conducive environment for intimacy and intensity, and in order to best communicate what happens in the film's pivotal scene," Lantos said in a statement. "It cannot be cut without compromising the central scene of the narrative and thus rendering the mystery of the film incomprehensible."
Asked how this rating would hinder the film's release, ThinkFilm's head of theatrical distribution Mark Urman told indieWIRE that whatever the outcome of the rating situation the film would ultimately be fine.
"When a film has this restrictive 'NC-17' rating, or no rating, a lot of the bookings are on a case by case basis. It slows things down and complicates things. But, one can still play a lot of venues, and the film is not salacious or otherwise beyond the pale, so I expect the exhibition community to take it in stride and to book it without hesitation."
In the case of "The Aristocrats," the recent ratings controversy that lead a mainstream theater chain to ban the movie fueled greater media attention for the film, which could also be the case with the Egoyan movie, agreed Urman. "It could indeed help," he said, "The film is sexy, but it is also mainstream and very classy. This is not '9 Songs' and it's not 'The Dreamers'." It's Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth after all! So it may be restricted to grown-ups, but it won't be confined to the margins that those other films were."
At the film's Cannes debut, insiders buzzed that the film's racier bits might land the movie an 'NC-17' from the Motion Picture Association of America. Urman explained that Egoyan trimmed the movie after the fest and he expected the film might get an 'R' rating. While some studios and Indiewood companies will not release films rated higher than an 'R', an independent company without corporate pressures can opt to release a movie unrated.
ThinkFilm plans to open the Egoyan film in New York and Los Angeles on October 14th, followed by an expansion into top markets around the country a week later and Urman says he personally feels the movie is suitable for a 17 year-old. "I think it can stand alongside an R without blushing," Urman explained, adding" The plot and the psychology are too complex for anyone who isn't sophisticated, so we're really splitting hairs about 17 vs. 18, but it's not a film one would see many 13 yr-olds frequenting. That said, a stupid 40 year old may come for the sex, but will have trouble with the mystery and the milieu!"