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Culture

French organisation leads crusade against sex on screen

© Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP | French actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, the stars of Abdellatif Kechiche’s film “Blue is the Warmest Colour”

Text by Charlotte BOITIAUX

Latest update : 2015-12-11

Promouvoir, an organisation known for its Catholic traditionalist leanings, has successfully lobbied to suspend the theatrical license of “Blue is the Warmest Colour” in France over what it described as the film’s overly “realistic” sex scenes.

Two years after director Abdellatif Kechiche’s “Blue is the Warmest Colour” (“La vie d’Adèle” in French) was awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the movie lost its theatrical license in France on Wednesday after a court in Paris ruled that it was not suitable for young audiences.

The decision was a victory for Promouvoir, which had argued that the film should be censored on the basis that it “depicted several sex scenes in a realistic manner up close” that were “of a nature to assault the sensibilities of younger viewers”.

In handing down its ruling, the court said that France’s culture ministry had two months to “conduct a review of the theatrical license application", meaning that the suspension could be lifted if the film’s rating is increased to 16-years-old and over, or higher.

“Blue is the Warmest Colour” is currently approved for audiences 12-years-old and over.

The decision was slammed by the film’s distributor as well as the culture ministry, which criticised the move as an “error of judgment”. Kechiche, however, told French daily Le Monde that he thought the ruling was “pretty sane”.

“I never thought that this film would be seen by 12-year-olds, and I have personally recommended that my daughter not watch it until she is 14 or 15,” the director said.

While the decision is unlikely to have much of a financial impact on the film, which sold more than a million tickets in France after its release in October 2013, it reveals a lot about Promouvoir’s intentions regarding French cinema.

Defending ‘Judeo-Christian values’

It’s nearly impossible to find any traces of Promouvoir online. The organisation doesn’t have an official website, nor does it appear to have any members other than André Bonnet, who also goes by the name Patrice André.

Bonnet, a former far-right activist, helped to found Promouvoir in 1996. A fiscal lawyer by trade, he has been known to make occasional television appearances and has contributed to a number of movie reviews as part of his crusade to defend “Judeo-Christian values in all sectors of society”.

His main focus, however, has been cinema, where he has sought “to block” movies exploring topics such as incest, rape or homosexuality, which he once described as a “danger” comparable “to the rise of Nazism and Marxist-Leninist ideology”.

While some have dismissed Bonnet as ridiculous, there’s no denying that he has made significant advances in his fight with the film industry. He has positioned himself as the sworn enemy of the National Centre for Cinematography’s (CNC) classification committee, which is responsible for rating movies exhibited and distributed in France.

“They make irresponsible decisions that are very serious,” Bonnet told the film magazine Première.

The sudden demise of the film ‘Baise-moi’

Bonnet’s battle with the film industry began in 2000, with Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi’s “Baise-moi”. Theatres in France were forced to pull the film after the Promouvoir co-founder filed a lawsuit over its explicit sexual and violent content.

“The film was given an X rating and removed from movie theatres after only two days, which meant the film was over,” Despentes told French culture magazine Inrocks. “We had no idea that a single person could get it pulled from theatres so quickly.”

The case forced the CNC to create a whole film rating for audiences 18-years-old and over.

The following year, Bonnet expanded his fight to the world of literature after taking on French author Michel Houellebecq’s novel “Platform” over its “pornographic” content. The same year, he also went after Bertrand Bonello’s provocatively named film, “The Pornographer”.

In 2009, Bonnet set his sights on Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist”. Although Promouvoir failed to have the film banned, it did succeed in having its theatrical license reviewed.

‘Nymphomaniac’, ‘Love’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’

It was the same for Von Trier’s sexually charged “Nymphomaniac”, as well as Larry Clark’s “Ken Park” and Gaspar Noé’s “Love”, all three of which have since been given ratings of 18-years-old and over.

Bonnet has also been an outspoken critic of this year’s “Fifty Shades of Grey”, which was widely ridiculed for only receiving a rating of 12-years-old and over in France, as well as “Mad Max: Fury Road”, which Promouvoir argued was too violent. The organisation even went after the Disney’s blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean” over its depiction of the living dead.

A father of eight, Bonnet has justified his crusade by drawing a direct correlation in between the psychological well-being of the country’s youth and films containing explicit sexual content.

“We act surprised… to hear that so many young people say that they don’t believe in love with a capital ‘L’ and that their suicide rate is constantly climbing,” he said during an interview with the French film website Allociné in August.

Date created : 2015-12-11

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