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by Dana Harris
June 9, 2011 5:10 AM
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UK Distributor Will Fight the "Human Centipede II" Ban -- But Can It Pass the Arthouse Test?

Eureka Entertainment has announced that it will appeal the British Board of Film Classification's decision to not grant "The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)" a classification certificate.

But what are the chances that it will succeed?

Brendan O'Neill, a blogger for the UK's The Telegraph and editor of edgy current affairs online magazine is not optimistic, writing Spiked, that the ban, "sums up brilliantly the tyrannical elitism of censorship and the BBFC’s treatment of the public as potential perverts who are only one sick movie away from going completely mental."

It's an accusation that could be leveled (and has been) at our own MPAA. However, in his Telegraph blog post O'Neill points out something that is decidedly outside America's own censorship experiences:

The elitism of the BBFC is also revealed in the fact that it is more likely to pass sexually violent movies if they are aimed at arthouse audiences (nice people) rather than the average Joe (frightfully unpredictable weirdos). So in 2009 it granted a cinema release to Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, which also features wacky sexual degradation. (I won’t go into detail, but there are scissors, hammers, private parts and a lot of blood.) One reviewer called it the “sickest” movie ever to receive the BBFC’s nod of approval. But our moral superiors were happy to release that film – alongside various other French and Japanese art movies with explicit sex and violence – because they trusted that only people like them, the decent, upstanding middle classes, are likely to go to the ICA to watch it. As censorship expert Tom Dewe Matthews has argued, the BBFC “has a bias in favour of arthouse audiences.”

Whoa there. "The Human Centipede II" is directed at the mainstream -- or at least at average Joes?

O'Neill is quick to clarify that in the U.K., a film like "Human Centipede" would be viewed as targeting neither the mainstream nor the arthouse, but perhaps another specialty audience -- the gorehouse. "It doesn't have any deep scenes and it doesn't claim any deep themes. It doesn't have those sensibilities like 'Antichrist or 'Base-Moi.'"

Nonetheless, distributor Eureka Entertainment has announced their intention to fight the ruling. As reported by Twitch Film:

Bounty Films (Australia), in conjunction with its UK distribution partner Eureka Entertainment Ltd. intends to appeal the decision.

Bounty MD Tony Romeo said:

"In Australia the film has been granted a certificate with no cuts.  We are extremely surprised therefore by the BBFC's decision."

At this time we do not wish to comment further.

Eureka is partnered with Bounty Films, a tiny label based in Melbourne that specializes mostly in DVD releases. Visit Bounty's website and you'll see a catalog devoted to library titles that range from "It's a Wonderful Life" to "40 Pounds of Trouble" (that one stars Tony Curtis). There's also the QC label devoted to queer cinema, which features films like "Edge of Seventeen" and "A Jihad For Love."

So where does "The Human Centipede" fit in this? Eureka, which is also primarily a DVD distributor, skews to the arthouse genre with a few outliers like the Spanish-language "Who Can Kill a Child?" However, Bounty's listings on IMDB Pro also include titles like "Dead Hooker in a Trunk" and "Bikini Girls on Ice."

Of those three genres -- Classic, Queer and Yikes! -- "Human Centipede" would presumably have been acquired for the latter. They're specialty releases, but certainly not arthouse. However, they do represent a sector with some free-speech precedence in the U.K.

"In the '80s, there were the 'video nasties' -- films like 'Driller Killer," which became accessible when people first got video shops," O'Neill said. "In that instance, some free-speech warriors did take up the case.

"(But) people are more likely to defend free speech for something worthy, 'Nine Songs was passed completely uncut. If it hadn't, there would have been an uproar. 'How could you censor Michael Winterbottom?' Here, there's been much less reaction and I think that's a mistake because you're not defending free speech, you're defending privileged speech."

In North America, the "Human Centipede" series has been distributed by the decidedly left-of-mainstream IFC Films (albeit under their Midnight label), which also released films like "Nine Songs" and "Antichrist."

However, because the U.S. has the option of releasing films without a rating, "Human Centipede II" doesn't need to pass the arthouse test: "Human Centipede: First Sequence" was released unrated.

As for the sequel's rating status, IFC has no comment.

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