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. email@example.com