This Film Is Not Yet Rated

A documentary written by Kirby Dick, Eddie Schmidt, and
Matt Patterson, and directed by Dick.

Reviewed by Josef Woodard

It seems fair to lump together the films
Super Size Me and This Film Is Not Yet Rated into
a fairly new subgenre of documentary. Both take on dubious behemoth
American institutions — McDonald’s and the MPAA — using guerilla
tactics and inserting the filmmaker into the very machinery whose
dysfunction they seek to unveil. The underlying messages in both
films question the authority of their targets and their pernicious
influence on America, whether it is the tragic dietary legacy of
fast food or the censoring nature of MPAA ratings, which always
give good grades to violence, but thumbs down to sex.
Ratings founder and longtime guru/overlord Jack Valenti,
unfortunately, was not interviewed for this film (there was no
Michael Moore-style ambush attempt to reach him), but he is
frequently seen from other footage. He chums around with studio
heads and utters the mantra that the MPAA board is made up of
“parents, neither gods nor fools, who make mistakes on
occasion.”In director Kirby Dick’s estimation, mistakes are not only
frequently made by the “secret” rating board, they are driven by
political and industry insider factors. He only found a few
filmmakers who would speak out, including Kimberly Peirce (Boys
Don’t Cry), John Waters (too many dirty movies to mention), and
Trey Parker, whose early indie film Orgazmo ran afoul of the board,
whereas later studio projects had an easier time.
A subplot about a private investigator’s stalking
project — including going through raters’ garbage — is an attempt
to inject some half-comical suspense into the film, but it’s
labored. The payoff results in “outing” all the rating
boardmembers. Late in the film, Dick submits his own
almost-finished film for a rating. He uses courtroom-style drawings
to recount his Kafka-esque encounter with the appeals board. Dick
also includes plenty of explicit footage, ostensibly as “exhibit A”
brand material. But the clips also serve a clearly titillating
function in the film, including Jane Fonda’s extended orgasm scene
in Coming Home and a funny montage illustrating how pelvic
thrusting is often a route to MPAA scorn.
Dick’s film is a fascinating guerilla documentary with some
cheesy tactics along the way, but also makes fundamental points
about how the incredible cultural power of the movies, a funnel of
public consciousness, is more controlled than we know.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.