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Thursday, April 26, 2007

The reason why you can't go to the movies and watch a movie the way its director wanted you to see it is Jack Valenti. Or I should say was since he passed away today. Jack Valenti could have said he opened the movie industry and released it from the tough censorship of the Hayes code, but his way of rating turned the movie industry into a conservative money-making machine that focused in censor sex, pleasure and the female form, but not violence. This issue was exposed in a film called This Film Is Not Yet Rated:

Valenti knew more about politics than movies themselves, if he considered A Man For All Seasons (1966) his favorite film ever. Valenti knew how to manipulate mass media and he did a pretty good job keeping independent films under the radar if the subjects were too risqué. He would have probably sent Brokeback Mountain to financial collapse if he'd still been the president of the MPAA. Directors, screenwriters, actors, producers, promoters and specially people with intelligence are not going to miss him at all. He's the reason Malena is just mildly sexy and not the ultimate erotic teenage fantasy it was supposed to be. He's the reason a movie rated NC-17 is not shown at the multiplex but in a low budget theater, struggling to survive and closing anytime soon. Valenti won't let an NC-17 movie have TV spots. He's the reason european film gets chopped and mocked with bad U.S. remakes.

Sometimes, a filmaker had to actually deal with Valenti himself so his movie wouldn't be chopped: in 1984 he invented overnight the PG-13 rating after Steven Spielberg himself told him he would release Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom featuring the violent and cruel child abuse scenes.

Valenti was a money maker, a profiter political advisor and a pop-corn & soda promoter. His rating system is not bad per se (just imagine your 5 year old son asking you what a clitoris is after watching The Piano Teacher) but it affects moviemakers economically: they know if a movie is rated NC-17 or it's not rated won't be released in the big movie theaters. Whoever's against the system will be punished and their movies will be limited release.

So long, Mr. Valenti. Let's see if they tell you in the afterlife if the movie you're about to see is ok for you.