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John Lui
Friday, May 2, 2014

Showbiz

The thin line between porn and art

The Straits Times | John Lui | Friday, May 2, 2014

The award- winning Blue Is The Warmest Color certainly does. Sex in a critically acclaimed film can be gratuitous, in a loose sense of the word. Blue fits the bill here too.

SINGAPORE - Viewpoint

When is sex not sex? When it is in a critically well-received movie, of course. That is when sex - the physical act between two people - becomes something else.

What it becomes, no one can really say. Because an artistic movie can exploit sex. The award- winning Blue Is The Warmest Color certainly does. Sex in a critically acclaimed film can be gratuitous, in a loose sense of the word. Blue fits the bill here too.

In the version I watched overseas, there remained intact the "strong, prolonged and explicit sexual scenes", according to notes published on the Media Development Authority's Films Classification Database, which gave it an R21 rating after eight minutes of sexual material were removed by the film's distributor.

The clipped scenes were gratuitous, exploitative and unnecessary to the storyline, and any other word you might like to use to say that its inclusion was probably made for commercial reasons.

What compounded the problem, in the eyes of the MDA, was that it was same-gender sex, of which "explicit portrayals" are not allowed here.

Do you see the problem?

The guidelines presume a question: What is the purpose of the film - to make money or to make art? And the MDA uses that yardstick to decide whether Singaporeans get to see it or not.

The guidelines followed by the Board Of Film Censors (a department under the MDA) draw a clear line between "pornographic" and "non-pornographic" elements in films, illustrating it with language that includes the words "gratuitous", "offensive" and "exploitative" - all words that can be applied to Blue. And yet, here it is, opening in cinemas this week, albeit with snips.

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