'Crash' driven out of the West End for good

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The Independent Online
The Government was yesterday urged to step in and redefine what an 18 film certificate means, as Westminster councillors banned the controversial film Crash from being shown in London's West End.

The film will still open on 6 June at 40 cinemas nationwide including those parts of London outside the City of Westminster.

But in a surprisingly vitriolic judgement yesterday, Westminster's licencing sub committee's chairman labelled the film as "bordering on obscenity" liable to lead to copycat action and guilty of depicting women in a "sexually humiliating way".

Even the three councillors who voted against the ban by the nine-strong Conservative controlled committee gave the film's producers little comfort.

Labour councillor Kate Wilkins said afterwards "It's stupid to give all this publicity to the most boring, tedious film I've ever seen. And as usual in an art film, it has women taking their clothes off."

Crash directed by David Cronenberg and starring Holly Hunter and Rosanna Arquette, focuses on a group of people who gain sexual stimulation from car crashes. The film, based on the novel by J G Ballard, is however made in a stylised manner depicting its central characters as unfulfilled, and the sex as cold and unerotic.

Yesterday's decision by Westminster councillors to make its interim ban on the film permanent was especially important for its call on the Government to arrange for new independent guidelines for 18 films. At present, the guidelines used by the British Board of Film Classification (which has given Crash an 18 certificate) say that 18 certificate films cover those "requiring an adult understanding" including "nudity in a sexual context and graphic violence." Westminster councillors complained yesterday that "the guidelines for 18 films are so wide that virtually any film could be classified under the heading."

Yesterday's committee meeting provided a dramatic clash of cultures. A 69-year-old antiques dealer, John Bull, who chaired the sub committee, delivered a fierce denunciation of the film following an impassioned plea by 39-year-old Chris Auty, the film's executive producer. After his plea the committee went into private session to debate the merits of the film for more than two hours. Mr Bull read a statement on behalf of the committee saying that the film was "bordering on obscenity".

He went on "The main characters in the film are shown as being sexually attractive, independently minded, interpersonally powerful, effective and tenacious. In short they are depicted to be attractive role models. It is for this reason the sub committee found the deviant behaviour of the main characters in relation to sex and car crashes most disturbing ... it is argued that the film taken as a whole could deprave and corrupt."

In his plea to the committee, Chris Auty said: "It seems to me that any commonsensical person seeing the film will acknowledge that it paints a disturbing world; one which has become cold, technological, dehumanised. Crash clearly warns us against dehumanisation, against a society drifting into affectlessness.

"Simply because it does not open with a statement of moral guidance does not mean that the film is not pre-occupied with moral issues."