“This Film is Not Yet Rated” and “Fuck”

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This Film Is Not Yet Rated
IFC Films. 97 minutes.

Fuck
THINKFilm. 93 minutes.

These brash documentaries cleverly take aim at Americans’ paradoxical love of free expression and deep-rooted puritanism. In This Film Is Not Yet Rated, director Kirby Dick exposes the hypocrisy of the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating system, which has been passing often arbitrary judgments on movies since 1968. Armed with a hidden camera and a hefty dose of chutzpah, and assisted by a lesbian private eye and a passel of frustrated filmmakers, he sets out to demonize former MPAA president Jack Valenti, who launched the ratings system, and to unmask the anonymous raters who can be the difference between a teen-friendly blockbuster and an adults-only bomb.

It’s not news that movie raters react more severely to explicit sex than graphic violence. But This Film teases out some interesting tidbits, including the raters’ harsh treatment of gay themes and indie films, as well as their apparent discomfort with scenes of female sexual pleasure. Dick also persuades a handful of former raters to go on the record and reveals the role played by the Christian leaders who sit in on ratings appeals. Originally, the MPAA’s system was supposed to stave off censors, yet This Film provides a disturbingly long list of filmmakers who’ve altered their movies to get an R rating, or who have been forced to accept an NC-17—a virtual kiss of death that can severely hamper a film’s distribution. Perhaps it’s no surprise to learn that this documentary’s title is a misnomer: It, too, has been slapped with an NC-17.

Sharing This Film’s anti-puritanical outlook and seriocomic tone, Steve Anderson’s Fuck is an alternately irreverent and earnest exploration of everything you ever wanted to know about the four-letter word but were afraid to ask, from its cloudy origins and linguistic versatility to its infiltration of almost every sphere of our culture. Weighing in is a balanced collection of talking heads that includes conservative film critic Michael Medved, Judith “Miss Manners” Martin, Pat Boone, Bill Maher, Deadwood writer David Milch, and the late Hunter S. Thompson. Anderson suggests that the allure of forbidden language comes in part from the specter of moral disapproval. After all, if everyone went around freely dropping f-bombs, what power or efficacy would the word have anymore? Come to think of it, as any HBO fan can attest, that is precisely what is happening, decency be damned.

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