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. 

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Art and Artifice

I just came across this really interesting new blog on art and law, Art and Artifice - well worth a read, regular readers of this blog will know that art and law often crops up on Dispatches.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The late, great, Pete Postlethwaite

I was really saddened to learn of the passing of Pete Postlethwaite at the weekend, see the Guardian obituary here. He truly was a great actor, and I have enjoyed seeing him in lots of films as varied as Distant Voices, Still Lives which I saw at the Scala many years ago and James and the Giant Peach which was a favourite of my daughter Keir for a time ('marvelllous things will happen'). As an academic working in the area of film and law, I was also well aware of him - his brilliant portrayal of Guiseppe Conlon in In the Name of the Father is well known, but I had forgotten about his portrayal of a lawyer in the film Amistad until I read Peter Bradshaw's piece A face you won't forget. He will be sadly missed.