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High Court Ruling Upholds Society

High Court Ruling Upholds Society re French Sex-Rape-Violence Film Ban Application ("Irreversible")

The Hon. Justice MacKenzie issued his decision late this afternoon in favour of the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards (Inc.) in the case it brought against the president of the Film and Literature Board of Review, Ms Claudia Elliott, an Rotorua-based lawyer.

The Society had sought a judicial review of a decision issued by the president which turned down its application made on 5 August 2004, for an interim restriction order against the French sex-rape-violence film Irreversible - a film that features a nine minute anal rape of a woman by a drug-crazed homosexual as well as extreme levels of gratuitous and graphic violence juxtaposed with explicit sex scenes.

The Society, represented by Wellington barrister Mr Lance Pratley, argued that the president had committed errors of law in her decision. MacKenzie J. ruled that two of the five errors of law identified by the Society were of such significance that had they not been made, the outcome of the president's decision may have been different. He concluded that the matter should be remitted back to the president to enable her to correct the two legal errors and reconsider her decision not to grant an interim restriction order, in the light of the Court's findings.

The Society is anticipating a decision to be issued by the president no later than Monday 30 August 2004. It considers the only decision that can be made in line with the law is one that as MacKenzie J. noted would safeguard the integrity of the review process and seek to safe-guard the public from injury. The Society submits that the review process has been severely compromised, sullied and undermined by the continuingl screenings of the film "Irreversible" in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch since 5 August 2004, before the Board has carried out its review of the classification.

This is not the first time errors of law have been identified in the president's decisions, by a High Court judge. Last year the Hon, Justice Ronald Young found that legal errors had been made by the same president in her two decisions relating to the films "Ken Park" and "Irreversible". Both decisions by the president denied the Society the interim restriction orders they had applied for in respect of these two films. (The film "Irreversible" was classified in April 2003 and that decision was subject to a reconseration by the Classification Office in July 2004 that resulted in a widening of its availability to mainstream cinemas under its new R18 classification).

The Society is frustrated that the president has failed to set a date for the substantive review of the film's classification despite the fact that the Society's application for review was lodged with the Secretary of the Board on 5 August 2004.

The Crown Law Ofice lawyer acting for the Board, Mr John Oliver, informed MacKenzie J. in the Wellington High Court yesterday that another applicant - Rape Crisis (Auckland) Inc. - had been granted leave to have the classification of "Irreversible" reviewed by the Board. He noted that Rape Crisis had lodged its application for review with the Secretary on Wednesday 25 August 2004.

The Society has learnt recently that a number of other organisations have applied for leave to have the classification of "Irreversible" reviewed: VoTE (Viewers of Television Excellence); VISION Network (NZ) - a grouping of 350 NZ evangelical churches; the National Collective of Rape Crisis and PROMOTION (a Wellington-based organisation).

The Society submits that "Irreversible" should be classified "objectionable" under s. 3(2) of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classificaton Act 1993 or refused classification until significant excisions are made to the film to remove objectionable content.

The Society submitted the following review of the film "Irreversible" by NZ gay activist Chris Banks, to the president for consideration, entitled: "Homophobic horror and disgust"


Extracts from Review......

This is a simple warning to anyone considering attending "Irreversible" ......... don't go.

"Irreversible" is the most brutally homophobic film ever released. Its art-house pretensions have fooled many reviewers, but director Gaspar Noe's own words in interviews have revealed this picture for the provocative, dehumanising trash that it is.

The story is a tale of seemingly innocuous decisions that lead to brutal consequences, but it is told backwards, starting with the cause and then showing us the effect. The philosophy of the film, stated by characters and in a title card at the end is "Time Destroys All Things", an interesting truism, but an empty philosophy when taken in the context of what we are forced to see and hear.

With the narrative unfolding in reverse, there are some details that we only become aware of later, but they only serve to deepen the horror and disgust of what we have already witnessed.

The film opens with two men being led from a club called "Rectum". One is on a stretcher with his arm broken, the other seems OK but is handcuffed by police. A crowd of onlookers hurl a tirade of homophobic abuse at the two men.

We then see what led to this event. Marcus and Pierre, the two men, force their way into the club in search of a man known as "The Tenia", who we are later to learn has anally raped and beaten Marcus's wife. This anal rape scene will be played out in a single nine-minute take later on in the film, and has been the source of most of the controversy surrounding "Irreversible". The homophobic elements have been less widely publicised. It is pretty obvious that "Rectum" is a gay S&M venue, but it is portrayed as the scariest hell imaginable. All of the men portrayed in the club are engaged in various sex acts and reply to Marcus and Pierre's requests for information on the whereabouts of "The Tenia" by begging to be fucked.

Marcus, in particular, gets more and more agitated when he can't find "The Tenia", and starts to verbally abuse every man he comes across - "fag " and "faggot" are the only words used to describe gay men in this movie. When one man pushes the aggressive Marcus to the ground, breaking his arm, Pierre steps in and knocks the man to the floor.

As a crowd of men look on without interfering, Pierre takes a fire extinguisher from the wall and smashes Marcus's assailant in the face with it. Repeatedly. In a single, unbroken take, Pierre continues to pummel the man until his skull cracks, his face is mashed and his brains leak out. An onlooker then describes the scene as "awesome". The character of Marcus is homophobic to the core. His entire motivation for the attack is homophobia - after a few unreliable tip-offs he seems content that he will find his girlfriend's rapist in a gay sex club. Why? Because she was anally raped?

Renowned American director William Friedkin's career was almost ruined when he released his 1980 picture "Cruising", about a serial killer who preyed on gay men. Gay activists were up in arms about his portrayal of gays in the film, which was mostly set within the S&M underworld, despite Friedkin displaying a title card at the beginning of the film that stated that it was not intended to depict the everyday life of gays. Noe's response to accusations of homophobia is let people know that he, a straight man, is one of the masturbating bystanders watching Pierre smash a gay man's head to an unrecognizable pulp.

The end of the film, chronologically the beginning, is even more sickening for the gay viewer, as it shows with pastoral beauty the happy "normal" sex life of Marcus and his wife before the irreversible events we have already witnessed. This is supposed to make the viewer simultaneously sad and touched, revelling in their happiness but aware of the madness to come. By this stage, the last thing you care about is the shattered life of a straight couple, no matter how horrible the circumstances.

The Chief Censor's decision... has taken into account the disturbing nature of this film, which is also relentless mysogynistic and racist.

One can only imagine that the outcry which accompanied "Cruising" has not been forthcoming for "Irreversible" because it will not get anywhere near a mainstream audience, and that most have recognised it as a shallow gimmick from a director who has proclaimed on numerous occasions that he won't stop making films until he makes one that is banned.

If you still feel you want a taste of this "forbidden fruit", I urge you to read the other material available online so you know exactly what you are in for...........

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