Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Films, the X Certificate and the University of Westminster

Three years ago I blogged about the passing of Tony Tenser and in passing mentioned that the Old Cinema at the University of Westminster was the location for the first showing of an X rated film in the UK. This was in January 1951, and the film in question was La Vie Commence Demain. The film was described by Hal Erickson in the the All Move Guide, reproduced in the New York Times as

Documentary filmmaker Nicole Vedre's first semi-fictional feature was released in France in 1949 as La Vie Commence Demain. The film made it to the U.S. in 1952 as Life Begins Tomorrow. Made in cooperation with UNESCO, the film speculates on the future of mankind after the advent of Atomic Energy. Many prominent French artists and intellects contribute to the narration: Jean-Pierre Aumont plays The Man of Today, Andre Labarthe is the Man of Tomorrow, and Jean-Paul Sartre, Daniel Agache, Jean Rostand, Le Corbusier, Pablo Picasso and Andre Gide are respectively seen as "The Existentialist," "The Psychiatrist,' "The Biologist," "The Architect," "The Artist" and "The Author" (talk about typecasting!) Film clips of hospitals, schoolrooms, scientific laboratories, and even nightclubs are woven into Vedre's fascinating tapestry. 

Since my original post I have uncovered some disputes as to which was the first X rated film, see for example the debate on this blog. We can see from the British Board of Film Classification archives that it was first classified 60 years ago this week, following recommendations from the Wheare Report that introduced a new classification system, so January 1951 was when the new X rated certificate went live. At the time the Cameo Poly, now the Old Cinema at the University of Westminster and currently the subject of a campaign to revive the birthplace of British Cinema, was well known for showing foreign films and La Vie Commence Demain was certainly shown in January 1951 at the cinema and billed as its UK premiere. We hope to show this film again as the Cinema is redeveloped, hopefully to mark the centenary of the British Board of Film Classification which takes place in 2012, and will keep you posted. 


John Flood said...

Maybe it's time to reshow some of these films and maybe get a censor or two to come along and discuss why we need censorship in these days of unfettered internet access where nothing is really off-limits.

Guy Osborn said...

Hi John, we have shown some of the premiered films in the past, and negotiations are ongoing about this one. Also we have had classification officers (note NOT censors!) come in to discuss this too. Agree we should make more still of this, will keep you in the loop...

Rawad Wehbe said...


Where or how could one view La Vie Commence Demain these days? I've searched a few libraries and video stores in Southern California and have had no luck. Thank you!