Censors to allow more sex in films rated 18

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The Independent Culture

Film censors vowed yesterday to interfere less frequently in 18-rated movies under new guidelines that will concentrate on films actively promoting violence and drug taking.

Film censors vowed yesterday to interfere less frequently in 18-rated movies under new guidelines that will concentrate on films actively promoting violence and drug taking.

The more liberal climate led to the notorious sex film Deep Throat being passed for video release in Britain for the first time yesterday. A change to the adult video regulations allowed the British Board of Film Classification to pass uncut the entire 60-minute film. Deep Throat caused outrage when it was made in the early 1970s because of the graphic nature of some scenes. The change in the rules has meant that the board will re-evaluate a further 60 films that were previously either cut or refused certification.

"The public has made clear to us that it doesn't want adults to be nannied," Robin Duval, the board's director, said.

There will, though, be a stricter regime for certification for children, with swearing outlawed in certificate 12 films, and no reference of any sort to drugs in U and PG films.

But Mr Duval agreed with the suggestion that it was "difficult" to determine in a film such as Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction whether the use of violence by a glamorous actor (John Travolta) merely portrayed dangerous activity or gave it enough cachet to promote it.

Mr Duval said: "It is a difficult call to make. We're constantly being presented with films, which if you take the violence out of context could be said to promote violence."

Andreas Whittam Smith, the board's president, said: "Tarantino generated a class of stylised violence. I have often thought that, if I was mugged in the street, would I have time to ask my assailant whether it was stylised violence?"

Nevertheless the board, introducing the new guidelines, said it would be interfering less frequently in 18-rated movies and would call for fewer cuts.

The board will now step in "only rarely" to tackle issues of violence, drug use and explicit sex images after a public survey suggested adults should be able to watch what they want. However, the board is to clamp down on violence, drug portrayal and bad language at lower classification levels for video and film. The latest guidelines follow a wide-ranging study, Sense And Sensibilities, into the public's views about what should be shown.

Although the board will err on the side of not cutting scenes, it may step in to cut or reject "the more explicit images of sexual activity", unless they can be justified by context, or scenes that "promote" violent or dangerous acts including drug use.

Officials at the board acknowledge the change of police will let through explicit material but they say they are not moving the goalposts to allow stronger scenes more suited to sex videos. A spokeswoman said: "We will be intervening less because we accept that people believe adults should be able to watch what they want. Every film will be judged on its merits."

Mr Duval said: "What was very clear from the consultation - which involved over 3,000 people from all demographic groups and from right across the UK - was that adults want to choose what they watch without excessive intervention by the board.

"But while the majority of the public felt we should interfere less in the adult category, they also thought we could be more restrictive in the U, PG and 12 categories on violence, drugs and bad language. When it came to the 15 category they felt we could be more relaxed about the portrayal of sex, but with the emphasis on responsible, loving and developing relationships."

There is particular concern about the portrayal of drug use and for the first time the board has spelt out that U films should have no references. Restrictions at PG, 12 and 15 have been strengthened. The revamped guidelines also take account of worries about children watching violent films. They say: "The uses of weapons which are easily accessible to young people will be restricted. Imitatable techniques may be cut."

The board - an independent body - views films to see which certificate would be most suitable and also suggests cuts to film distributors, which would allow the production to be given a younger rating.

The censors are now looking into whether the 12 category should be advisory, rather than mandatory, as children of that age develop at different speeds.

Of the revised 18-rating, Mr Duval said: "It will not be a case of anything goes. We are putting up flags in relation to extreme violence and to material which is extremely sexually explicit and perhaps, most particular, in relation to drugs -- there is a strong concern about the portrayal of drugs in films."

Mr Whittam Smith had no concerns that a slight relax-ation in the portrayal of sexat the 15-category would have any impact on teenage pregnancy. He said: "We have the toughest guidelines in the world and the highest level of teenage pregnancy."

Earlier this year the board relaxed rules on sex videos, allowing more explicit, real scenes than ever before after it was defeated in a court case. These R18 films are available only in licensed sex shops.

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