Blue Valentine (latest poster on the right) is a complicated film both in the sense that what projects on the screen is divisive and intense, while the real-world context of the film has also grown increasingly laden with difficulties. Saddled with a crippling NC-17 rating, the filmmakers and the studio (i.e. The Weinsteins) have pushed back against this rating as their film continues to gain notoriety and support with each new audience. The films released on the last day of this year, and the lawyers are assembling to appeal the MPAA’s decision. When speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, the director Derek Cianfrance had this to say about the appeal…
“We have a team of great lawyers and so much support from the industry, media and fans. I haven’t really met anyone who thinks that [NC-17] rating is just. We are still fighting it and hoping it can be changed to an “R.” Bottom line is we are not changing the movie out of respect. The movie is this movie … it has no harm in it. It is about loving, intimacy, care and emotions. It is the intangibles of emotion and intimacy you don’t see that got us the rating. If you take those out, that’s the heart of the movie.”
And he’s right. I’ve sen the film and the rating is, frankly, a crock of shit. It’s another strong piece of evidence that supports the accuracy of every nasty thing you’ve ever heard or guessed about the MPAA’s sensibilities, including their implicit endorsement of violent content being increasingly easier to access, while frank displays of sexuality (especially those that catalog sexually liberated women) are shoved into the shadows. To be honest, I’m baffled Black Swan didn’t suffer a similar ratings fate, except maybe there was enough violence to distract them. What’s even worse is that if it’s not the sexuality that caused the rating, then the implications of what the MPAA is trying to shield from us become even more disturbing.
For those that have seen Blue Valentine or very much wish to see it, there is a a bit of supportive action you can take to help the film out. The studio has set up an online petition which can be signed and commented upon right here. The process is extremely simple so it’s easy to contribute towards the goal of 100k signatures.
As we wait to hear whether or not the MPAA will come to their senses, Cianfrance has been discussing his future projects with Vulture. He has two in the works- a feature-film called The Place Beyond the Pines, and an HBO TV show about which he is willing to give no details. The film is said to be Jack London inspired, so I assume there’s going to be snow, wolves and a journey either towards civility from wildness, or vice versa. Ryan Gosling will return to that place in front of the director’s camera for that project. The only thing he would mention about the HBO series is that he intends to “give new meaning to the words ‘character development.'”
My fingers are crossed for Cianfrance- he’s made a brave, sophisticated film that honestly portrays events between human beings that are not easily captured in ways that feel so genuine. I do know people that did not like Blue Valentine, in fact, I know people who hated it. The reactions of each of them (several of which are possessed of genuine love for film, and have taste that I trust) have been shockingly extreme, which indicates to me that Cianfrance has made a film that you may not like, but yet can’t be ignored. No film which can incite reactions that seem to spring so thoroughly from the gut could be considered value- or powerless.