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17 Films Rated NC-17: Did They Deserve The 'Certificate Of Doom'?

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist October 24, 2013 at 4:01PM

So with its super-long and undeniably graphic sex scene, among other explicit moments, “Blue is the Warmest Color,” which is released this week, was always going to get slapped with an NC-17 rating in the U.S. But unlike many other films in a similar situation, its unassailable position as a near-universally lauded (our own review is here) Cannes Palme d’Or winner has placed the idea of cuts being made for the U.S. market out of the question. For which we heave a sigh of relief, of course: better for us that the film is released, with whatever certification, uncut, than we get some kind of hacked up version that scrapes an R. Still, it’s a debate that surrounds the inevitably controversial rating ever since it was introduced to replace the old X certificate, with an NC-17 assessment being regarded by many as, basically, the kiss of box-office death for anything but the most buzzed-about film. It carries with it not only the automatic reduction of the potential audience by exactly that segment of the population most likely to go to the theater, but also distribution woes that range from certain cinemas refusing to screen NC-17s, to certain video stores refusing to stock the DVDs.
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A Serbian Film

A Serbian Film” (2010)
What's It About? A retired porn star, desperate for cash to support his young boy and wife, is brought back for one last fuck fest on film. But what sinister things does the director have in mind for him? In short, some really, really, really upsetting shit.
Why Did It Get The Rating? Where to start? A woman has her head chopped off midway through intercourse (and that’s just the beginning of the bad stuff); a newborn baby is raped on screen (seriously, this actually happens); death by skull fucking, a man rapes a young boy on screen. The list goes on. And on. And on. It’s been censored and/or banned in several countries. Netflix refuses to carry it.
Did It Deserve Its NC-17? Abso-fuckin-lutely! This writer has a very strong stomach for just about anything on film (read: desensitized as hell), but “A Serbian Film” is the test for even the most gore-houndish of movie lovers. It’s upsetting, disgusting and just so very wrong. If you watch it, we recommend a long cold shower. In short, it’s a day ruiner.
How Good Is It? Unfortunately, all of it is in service of a pretty weak and pretentious film, the kind of project even an angry teenager desperate to shock would think twice about putting out in the world. We don’t believe in censorship, nor do we think artists should compromise their vision, but this one just feels pointless and insane for no greater purpose. [D]

Orgazmo

"Orgazmo" (1997)
What's It About? A young Mormon missionary (Trey Parker), spreading the word of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in hedonistic Los Angeles, becomes an unlikely porn star known as Orgazmo in order to pay for his expensive Mormon Temple wedding (don’t worry, he uses a Stunt Cock).
Why Did It Get The Rating? The film is set almost entirely on a porn set, there's a lot of raunchy, raunchy talk about various porno stunts like DVDA (Double Anal Double Vaginal), Ron Jeremy plays a character known as Jizzmaster Zero, Orgazmo’s sidekick is named Choda Boy and wears a dildo on his head. It seems that frank and ultimately silly (Parker wears a hot pink onesie with a giant silver codpiece) portrayals of the porn world was just too much for the MPAA in 1997. In the initial ruling, they didn’t say what needed to be cut, but various online comparisons of the NC-17 and R versions note shortened shots during the scenes on the porn set, and there are also a few cuts for violence and language (they changed line to take out “dicks,” yes, really). 

Did It Deserve Its NC-17? Eh, maybe? Kids under 17 probably shouldn't watch this, but nowadays, most have them have seen enough of the real stuff online, that maybe they should all be treated to a dose of this decidedly unsexy yet hilarious parody. The cuts seem so slight between the two versions that it seems like a case of MPAA prudishness meeting the Parker/Stone signature aesthetic, just before "South Park" blew up. To be honest, the R-Rated version of this movie was a high school favorite of this writer (KW). 

How Good Is It? Just because we liked it in high school doesn’t mean it’s actually “good.” Parker pulls triple duty as writer/director/star and the film does showcase his writing chops (writing partner Matt Stone plays a PA who doesn’t wanna sound like a queer or nothin’, but thinks Depeche Mode is a sweet band), which is stupidly funny, deceptively genius, and eminently quotable. “Orgazmo” is a sort of a loving, dumb send up of 90s-style porn, but it’s also a pretty smart skewering of cultural hypocrisy, religion, materialism, homophobia, etc. [B-]

Because we’re freaks for symmetry, we’ve only listed seventeen NC-17 films here, but of course there are a couple hundred others we could have chosen to assess. A few notable ones that just missed the cut were Almodovar’s “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” “Young Adam,” starring the rarely shy Ewan MacGregor, the still astonishingly violent and disturbing “Man Bites Dog,” Ken Russell’s self-explanatory “Whore,” and the first-ever official NC-17 title, “Henry & June.” It’s an interesting and broad topic, and we’re all adults here, so why not tell us your NC-17 tales in the comments below: why is it still such a stigma where in other countries the equivalent rating is not? What’s your favorite film with the cert, what’s the one you think least deserved it and which were the ones you emerged from thinking “really? That was NC-17?” Chime in below. —Drew Taylor, Gabe Toro, Erik McClanahan, Jessica Kiang, Rodrigo Perez, Katie Walsh, Diana Drumm.

This article is related to: Features, Feature, Blue is the Warmest Color


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