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Clean Flicks Loses in Court

Clean Flicks, the company that “sanitizes” movies for family consumption has been termed “illegitimate” by Richard Matsch of the U.S. District Court in Denver. Clean Flcks is one of four companies ordered to turn over their library of expurgated films to the studios. The studios and several big name directors have been fighting this since 2002, but are a bit hypocritical, when they allow the same types of editing for broadcast television and airlines.

The ruling does not effect other types of movie sanitizers which actually use computer programs to skip the offensive words or scenes. Those programs leave the original DVD intact. Currently, at least 90 video stores purchase product by these sanitizers. The practice began in 1998 when a Utah theater cut the scene in Titanic where Kate Winslet is topless. Paramount pulled the movie from that theater.

As a filmmaker, I believe in the writer and director’s vision and keeping that integrity intact. But when studios allow broadcast TV and airlines to edit, it appears the line has already been crossed. What can be done? If a reader is more up to date on this issue, I’d love your comments. Many people ask me why airline versions can’t be sold to families. I myself have experienced the frustration of seeing a movie on the airline that appeared fine, and then rented it for the kids, only to be shocked at scenes I never realized were there…

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  1. I have been especially frustrated going to rent a movie and find only the “unrated” version available. I go to the rental store already keenly aware of having to hit the fast forward button a few times…but the UR versions take that to a new level.

    Definitely agree that the santizing line has already been crossed, though. My how we spend our energy fighting marginal wars these days. Is it really THAT important to shut down a sanitizer?

  2. I agree with Phil. Its not a big deal if audiences want a “clean” version PROVIDED the uncut version is also available, or it amounts to censorship.

    That said, I personally can’t stand nanny censorship and having seen a number of my favourite films mutilated by TV over the years, it has become a pet hate of mine. I think it is down the artist to decide whether less is more or more is more (and either can be true).

    Peter Weir’s Witness is one of my favourite films, and the opening murder scene is a stunningly dramatic, tense, gut-clenching moment. Yet when the BBC first showed it they cut a few seconds of gore that rendered the entire scene about a tenth as powerful. I would not wish a cut version of this wonderful film on anybody. As far as I’m concerned, such censorship is cultural vandalism.

    For me, the entire argument is about context. For example, in war films I would argue it is actually irresponsible NOT to show the extreme violence of battle. How many flocked to Vietnam having been brought up on a diet of right-wing, sanitised and bloodless war films starring John Wayne?

    That said, I am also a great believer in self-censorship on the part of the artist. If they ought to exercise this and don’t, then they should be criticised for it rather than censored. The horror film The Descent could have been superb, but was actually rendered far less scary because of its extreme gore. In my experience, such vast amounts of “tomato ketchup” have one of two effects on the audience depending how desensitised they are: 1. They are revolted and as such fail to be scared, or 2. They find it funny and equally fail to be scared. In either case, the object of the horror film – to scare – has been lost. This was a shame, because The Descent was terrific up to a point, and also had a fantastic ending (which I understand was removed for the US because it was considered too downbeat. Personally, I thought it was fantastic, but thats another discussion).

    Well, to coin a phrase: “rant over”.

  3. This past month, we tried out Hollygood edited films, and loved them. We were able to watch many more movies together as a family. My wife, who is very sensitive to those things that are edited out, was very pleased with movies. We enjoyed the edited content.

    I agree with Phil that it’s quite hypocritical to allow editing for television and airlines, but not other “paying customers”. Doesn’t make sense. What else is not being said? Is it really an artistic expression, or something else? Sounds more like a control issue to me.

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