Film crashes into barrier over cuts

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Crash, David Cronenberg's disturbing film about a group of people who find car crashes and resulting injuries erotic, has been banned - at least temporarily - from being shown in the West End of London.

Westminster City Council's licensing sub-committee imposed an interim prohibition yesterday after watching the film, despite appeals from 50 leading film makers to allow it be released.

In a statement, councillors said they had three serious concerns about the controversial film based on JG Ballard's novel which won the special jury prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

The first was "the sex scene involving a woman wearing callipers". The second, the final sex scene, involving a man who forces his wife's car off the road and then has sex with her after she is thrown from the car, and the third the statement by one of the characters, Vaughan, that "car crashes are fertilising and not destructive".

While not explicitly calling for the scenes to be cut, the councillors "would be reluctant for the film to be shown in Westminster in the form shown today". Their ruling is crucial because it puts the film out of bounds for many of the leading West End cinemas. The film is due to go on general release in Britain in January.

After viewing the film councillors' reactions were mixed. Anne Barns said she did not enjoy the film. "I am extremely worried about the impact it might have on 18- or 19-year-olds who think themselves very clever and tend to like fast cars."

But David Avery disagreed: "I would have thought it was allowable viewing for adults if they don't mind degradation and violence towards women and dogs."

The committee chairman, John Bull, said: "It's exceedingly well made, you can't take that away. But if you are asking me personally whether I enjoyed the film, I can be quite honest, I could live without it."

Their official conclusions are to be put to the British Board of Film Classification, which is to rule on the film later this year. As soon as it has, the committee will reconsider the prohibition but retain the right to continue the ban if the BBFC give it an 18 certificate in its present form.

Meanwhile, momentum is gathering for Crash to be shown to an increasingly eager public. The film-makers Mike Leigh and Duncan Kenworthy say the film is a "work of art" which should be shown uncut.

After the meeting, the co-executive director of Crash, Chris Auty, said: "I think the key word here is `interim'."

He added: "The matter now rests, as it should have done all the way through, with the BBFC.

"We are delighted that the council has taken that view and we continue our discussions with BBFC chairman James Ferman.

"All we really want is that our work of art, which is how we think of this film from the bottom of our hearts, gets the opportunity to be seen in an uncut form by the British public."