'Crash' finds way round censor

The controversial film Crash will open in the West End of London despite being banned by Westminster City Council.

Distributors Columbia Tri-Star have cocked a snook at Westminster's ban by organising a "ring of screens" around Westminster for the movie.

The film, which explores supposed links between sex and car crashes, will open on Friday at the ABC Shaftesbury Avenue, just yards from Leicester Square, the hub of London cinema.

However, the ABC is technically in the London borough of Camden and outside Westminster's jurisdiction.

Columbia Tri-Star has also managed to have the film screened from this weekend in Kensington, Notting Hill and Fulham Road in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and Tottenham Court Road and Swiss Cottage in Camden, all outside Westminster, but all part of London's main cinema network.

Crash will also open at 50 other cinemas across Britain this weekend, with only Westminster, High Wycombe, Walsall and Lanarkshire continuing to enforce council bans despite the British Board of Film Classification giving the film an 18 certificate.

A spokeswoman for Columbia Tri-Star, said: "Obviously once the ban was enforced the distributors were looking for good West End sites. And we have found them. The other councils in London did not even ask to see the film. They were content to abide by the verdict of the BBFC."

The film's executive producer Chris Auty said: "It will seem bizarre to the rest of the world that a film can be banned from one group of cinemas but shown at another just a few yards away."

Crash, directed by David Cronenberg and starring James Spader, 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 JG Ballard - is, however, made in a stylised manner depicting its central characters as unfulfilled, and the sex as cold and unerotic.

Last month, Westminster banned the film from its cinemas declaring it to be "bordering on obscenity", liable to lead to copycat action and guilty of depicting women in a "sexually humiliating way".

Westminster's licensing sub-committee chairman John Bull explained the council's reasons for the ban, saying: "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, Mr 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."

Leading article, page 17

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