Should the state still control what can be seen in the cinema?

They could have tackled Saw 6, whose title allowed all indecent puns. But it is in Saw 3D, a butcher’s film released 5 years ago, that the Council of State has just sweetened the operating visa under the Push to promote, an association whose unacknowledged goal seems to be to replace the film classification commission.

I interviewed Christophe Triollet, author of the recent “ Cinematographic control in France“, A sum on the history of the control of sex, violence and religion in cinema,

From the beginning of cinema, sex has been censored: the first filmed and censored kiss film dates from a year after the creation of the cinema. For violence, when did it happen?

At the same time as the invention of cinema, men have staged love affairs, sometimes very raw. The violence on the screen appeared around the same time, although initially its form did not look the same as it is attributed to today. In 1895, the screening of Louis and Auguste Lumière’s film, Arrival of a train at La Ciotat station, thus aroused the fear of spectators who feared that the locomotive would come out of the screen and head straight for them. Violence in the cinema was at first suggestive even if in 1929, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali showed in close-up, with incredible realism, Simone Mareuil placidly having her eye cut off with a razor, letting the glazed humor flow in A dog. Andalusian.

We see that it is the same association (“Promote”) at the origin of the withdrawal of the visa of Saw 3D this year and Baise-moi in 2000. But if the bible says “you will not kill”, religious groups Do they tackle violence as much as they tackle sex on the screen?

In France, certain religious pressure groups pay particular attention to the messages conveyed on the screen. We must distinguish the groups which act when their faith is reached, I am thinking of the actions carried out against the films The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, Martin Scorsese) or The Passion of Christ (2004, Mel Gibson); and associations which defend moral values ​​sometimes associated with religion. In the latter case, there is the association Promote, of course, but also other very active groups such as the Civitas institute or the Citizengo foundation which have been talked about during actions carried out against the film Tomboy in the United States. name of the fight against gender theory.

« Promote ”is all over your book. Who are they? How is the association funded?

The Promoter association, created in 1996 by a retired magistrate, aims to promote “Judeo-Christian values ​​in all areas of social life”. According to its statutes, the association militates in particular in favor of “the dignity of man, woman and child, and as such intends to obstruct the development of all practices contrary to this dignity. , including incest, rape, homosexuality, pornography or recruitment by sects ”. In the cinema, the association continues to attack ministerial decisions authorizing the exploitation of films prohibited to minors of 16 and 18 years old when the works presented to the public contain one or more explicit sex scenes, or violence. , demanding from the minister and the judge, a total ban or, at least, a classification on the list of films of a pornographic nature or inciting to violence.

The attack carried out in 2000 against the film Baise-moi was undoubtedly a very great victory for the association, just like those launched against Ken Park, Antichrist or the two parts of Nymphomaniac in 2014. With the cancellation of the visa of exploitation of Saw 3D: final chapter obtained in May 2015 (the decision was made public by the Council of State in June), Promote has just won a new battle in the field of films of “very great violence”. In fact, like sex, the judge henceforth requires from the Minister that violence in the cinema be more systematically prohibited for those under the age of 18 when it exceeds certain limits, more precisely when a film contains scenes of “great violence”. But all these notions remain unclear, because how to differentiate a violent film (prohibited to minors of 12 years old), from a film of great violence (prohibited to under 16 years), from a film of very great violence (prohibited to under 18), a film inciting violence (prohibited for minors under 18 and rated X), a film of extreme violence or gratuitous violence?

We often talk about a return to moral order (the Manif ‘pour Tous, the rise of the FN,…) but has it ever really left? Even in 1974?

But what is morality? A very subjective notion, certainly. For a very long time, the judge admitted that the attack on public morals could be a legitimate reason for restricting the exploitation of a cinematographic work. This is no longer the case, only the protection of children and young people today having to guide the action of the Minister of Culture, the Classification Commission, or even that of the judge when he is grasped. Only the notion of attack on human dignity still seems to be able to pose a problem, because it is not clearly defined, and yet the law entrusts its safeguard to the Minister.

The unknown lakeSince films are now largely outside cinemas (vod, legal downloading or not, etc.), has state control of theatrical exploitation become purely symbolic?

This is a relevant question. The cinema remains today the only means of communication of ideas subject to the obligatory preliminary control of the State in application of the Code of the cinema and the moving image. How can we explain this special regime which undermines freedom of expression when the Internet is accessible to as many people as possible? It should be remembered that at the outset, the national exploitation visa was intended to prevent the mayors from deciding alone and arbitrarily on the level of classification of the films shown in their municipality. However, in June 2010, Sylvie Hubac, president of the Classification Commission until 2012, told me that, unlike other media, cinema always has a particular impact on viewers, a situation that requires classification: “There is a real difference between glimpsing an image furtively on the TV news or on the Internet and being screened a film in a dark room. Which is perfectly correct. The real question today would rather be to know whether to leave this responsibility to the State, or to entrust it to the professionals of the cinema industry (as we did for video in 2007, for posters of films in 2008), the judge can always be seized in the event of litigation.

You quote Jean-Francois Théry, president of the classification commission from 1981 to 1994. In 1993 he distinguished a “proselyte” homosexuality from a “refuge” homosexuality (of fear of women). These remarks may be shocking today, but the controversy of 2014 on the film “The Unknown of the Lake” was of the same tenor, except that it focused on posters in some cities and not on the classification of the film. Is this a way of shifting the censorship ground?

The controversies arising from the classification of films follow developments and debates within society. It is a fact. The treatment of homosexuality has always been a problem since the total ban on the film A Love Song (Jean Genet, 1950) describing the amorous passion of two prisoners. More recently, the poster for the film L’Inconnu du lac, and the affair of the classification of the film La Vie d’Adèle, clearly show that the debate is still relevant.

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Should the state still control what can be seen in the cinema?

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Catherine Coaches