screen writer

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion - Don­ald Clarke on the cen­sor’s wise words

Which film is sum­marised in the fol­low­ing terse sen­tence: “Sus­tained fan­tasy vi­o­lence in­volv­ing ro­botic crea­tures and hu­mans with­out gore”? It sounds, I ad­mit, a lit­tle like Atone­ment, but the an­swer is, in fact, Michael Bay’s di­vert­ingly bom­bas­tic Trans­form­ers. What about this: “Very strong ex­plicit bloody vi­o­lence incl rit­ual sac­ri­fice in an his­tor­i­cal con­text”? No, it’s not Be­com­ing Jane, but that de­li­cious fes­ti­val of evis­cer­a­tion known as Apoca­lypto.

Over the last few years, the Ir­ish Film Cen­sor’s Of­fice, un­der the sound stew­ard­ship of John Kelleher, has in­ad­ver­tently de­vised a new crit­i­cal re­source for think­ing film­go­ers. The com­ments that now ac­com­pany film certs are in­tended to alert del­i­cate cit­i­zens – and re­spon­si­ble par­ents – to the moral atroc­i­ties they are likely to en­counter in the week’s movie re­leases. But, con­tain­ing as they do vi­tal clues to the tone and flavour of the films con­sid­ered, the cen­sor’s re­marks of­ten con­sti­tute de­light­fully pithy ac­ci­den­tal re­views.

If, when asked about the last film he or she had seen, a friend could tell you only that it con­tained “very mild lan­guage”, you might run scream­ing from a mul­ti­plex. Sure enough, Miss Pot­ter, the film so de­scribed, was as much fun as suck­ing cold Hor­licks from an old sock. The fact that Renée Zell­weger’s Beatrix Pot­ter lets slip a mi­nor cuss (did she call Peter Rab­bit a “bold bunny”?) does not make it this year’s Reser­voir Dogs.

The cen­sor and his lieu­tenants do, it must be said, work hard at with­hold­ing any value judge­ments from their eco­nomic cat­a­logue of bar­bar­i­ties. From time to time, though, the bald syn­tax does al­low cer­tain un­happy truths to emerge.

Con­sider, for ex­am­ple, the sen­tence ap­pended to the cert for Wild Hogs: “Mod­er­ate and crude in­fre­quent sex­ual ref­er­ences and in­nu­endo; some fight­ing scenes played for com­edy.” The hu­mour of sex­ual in­nu­endo re­quires ro­bust­ness to thrive and, thus, the word “crude” need not be con­sid­ered a crit­i­cism here. But there is a cer­tain dis­ap­prov­ing weari­ness buried in the phrase “played for com­edy”.

Any­body who sat through Wild Hogs, in which four chums drive mo­tor­bikes across the US, will re­luc­tantly re­call John Tra­volta and the rest wav­ing their fists fu­ri­ously and gurn­ing like sideshow freaks. The fight se­quences were cer­tainly not comic but, ob­serv­ing a dis­tinc­tion the IFCO has not missed, they were “played for com­edy”. Stu­dents of English as a for­eign lan­guage might like to ex­per­i­ment with this con­struc­tion.

Still, the cen­sor has one way of – again, we stress, in­ad­ver­tently – be­stow­ing greater op­pro­brium on a new re­lease. Re­mem­ber Meet the Robin­sons from ear­lier this year? Fol­low­ing a young in­ven­tor as he zips into the fu­ture to en­counter friendly di­nosaurs and such, the an­i­mated film, de­spite its fam­i­lyfriendly sce­nario, did not tarry long in cine­mas. The cen­sor’s com­ments could not have been more dispir­it­ing for the pro­duc­ers: “No con­sumer ad­vice nec­es­sary.”

Even The Lit­tle Po­lar Bear 2, a re­cent Ger­man an­i­ma­tion for ba­bies, was said to in­clude some “Very Mild Peril”. No won­der the pun­ters stayed away. dclarke@ir­

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