‘Passages’ director isn’t happy his queer film got NC-17 rating

Ben Whishaw and Franz Rogowski in queer love triangle drama Passages
Image: Mubi

Ira Sachs, the director of queer love triangle drama Passages starring Ben Whishaw, has declared he won’t edit his film after the Motion Picture Association slapped it with an NC-17 rating.

In January, Passages premiered at Sundance to rave reviews. The film centers on a same-sex couple in Paris, an artist (Ben Whishaw) and his movie director husband (Franz Rogowski).

One of the men unexpectedly sleeps with a woman (Blue is the Warmest Colour‘s Adèle Exarchopoulos), which throws their relationship into turmoil.

The steamy drama includes several sex scenes – including a gay sex scene lasting two minutes – but Variety points out none of the scenes are “salacious or gratuitous”.

Nonetheless the MPA has given the film a “rare” NC-17 rating, the highest possible rating, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Director Ira Sachs is furious and told the outlet he’s not editing the film to obtain a more commercially favourable adult R-rating instead.

“There’s no untangling the film from what it is,” he said.

“It is a film that is very open about the place of sexual experience in our lives. And to shift that now would be to create a very different movie.”

“We hunger for movies that are in any proximity to our own experience. And to find a movie like this, which is then shut out, is, to me, depressing and reactionary.

“It’s really about a form of cultural censorship that is quite dangerous, particularly in a culture which is already battling, in such extreme ways, the possibility of LGBTQ+ imagery to exist.”

Passages is being released uncut in the US

Ira Sachs joked that the MPA’s letter explaining the decision “looks like it was written by my great-aunt”.

“In this case, it was about ass and fingers and bodies in motion. It’s very funny, because it’s written by someone who seems to be literally from a different era,” he said.

“We’re talking about a board that is not visible, that doesn’t make its rules known, that exists in silence.

“A select group of people who have a certain bent, which seems anti-gay, anti-progress, anti-sex. A lot of things which I’m not.”

Film distributor MUBI said the NC-17 rating was “deeply disappointing” but the film will be released in the US “uncut and unrated”.

“Passages is an honest and groundbreaking portrait of contemporary relationships, both queer and straight,” the company told the Los Angeles Times.

“Frank and thoughtful portrayals of sex are essential to cinematic storytelling and in service of representation more broadly.

“An NC-17 rating suggests the film’s depiction of sex is explicit or gratuitous, which it is not.

“[That rating suggests] that mainstream audiences will be offended by this portrayal, which we believe is also false.”

MPA denies gay and straight sex scenes are rated differently

But the MPA defended the move. A spokesperson said movies are rated “based on their content, what happens on screen, and how it is depicted.”

“The sexual orientation of a character or characters is not considered as part of the rating process,” the spokesperson said.

Last month, Passages played in Australia at the Sydney Film Festival. But the film hasn’t been formally classified in Australia yet.

But the classification blow-up this week is getting some hyped to see the queer film.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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