Welcome to the latest edition of 24 Frames. Andrew Jamieson will be guiding you through the exciting, confusing and often brilliant world of 'film'. Expect news, trailers and plenty of opinion.


The 'Censorship' Edition

Last week saw some controversy arrive concerning the actress Evan Rachel Wood and the new movie she stars in, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman (2013). While the movie itself looks interesting enough - it seemingly moulds the elements of film noir with a distinctly European sensibility and has a stellar cast including Wood, Mads Mikkelson and Shia LaBeouf - it is Wood's comments about the cuts made by the MPAA to the movie that have drawn the most attention.

The actress saw a print of the movie at a screening and she was annoyed at the fact that the MPAA had cut out a scene in which Shia Labeouf's character, Charlie performs oral sex on her character, Gabi. Wood took to Twitter to vent her frustrations, claiming that the MPAA ratings board had cut the scene because it would make people feel 'uncomfortable'.

Wood's comments are interesting and it should provoke a debate about what is being swept under the carpet by the major studios and the film industry on the whole. I will address the wider context later but let's first consider the debate here. The thing that disturbs me on a subjective level is the fact that I actually think her comments have shocking credibility. There has always been a fear of female sexuality throughout the ages so this is nothing new. When Blue Valentine (2010) was released it was given the accursed NC 17 rating by the MPAA because of a scene that featured oral sex. This sensual act is of course one that is especially intimate for couples of both sexes across the world. Without wishing to be crass here, to me it is the ultimate expression of gratifying pleasure that is natural and special and for many people a strong facet of intimacy within their private lives. What terrifies me is the fact that when it is an act in which the female is pleasured, it is seen as something to fear.

There is an almost patriarchal dread of female sexuality that is quite unnerving. Over the last year I saw a brutal sex scene in The Paperboy (2012) and over the last few decades brutal rape scenes have passed the censors in the likes of Irreversible (2002) both versions of The Girl with The Dragon Tatoo (2009) (2011) and the utterly redundant remake of I Spit on Your Grave (2010). Again you have to ask the question why is female rape; which is by definition an act of grotesque violence and sadism acceptable and yet a woman receiving consensual pleasure from her lover is not? While all of the above movies and the original version of I Spit on Your Grave (1978) demand a nuanced debate on the portrayal of gender inequality, story, sex and cinematic context this is still a disturbing feature of modern cinema. The wonderful books, Men Women and Chainsaws by Carol J Clover and Linda Ruth Williams book on erotic cinema address these questions with a level of eloquence and incisiveness that I won't try to replicate here. However, in the United States there is a distinct problem here when you consider that Black Swan (2010) and Mulholland Drive (2001), both of which feature sex scenes of this nature, tend to pander slightly to male expectations of what sexual intimacy and freedom actually is. Paradoxically the original cut of Basic Instinct (1992) was censored because of a woman receiving oral sex from a man. I am highlighting these instances because it all seems to support what Evan Rachel Wood was so irate about. The patriarchal way of defining how women should look and specifically how they should make love should never ever become part of cinematic culture, if that is the case then it is time to start actively opposing this current grotesquery.

While I would never want sexuality to be defined by a panel of either men or women, the cinematic playbook could be more balanced. It should never be patronizing as sexuality is such a subjective and complex part of life. This makes taking any supposed 'feminist' perspective difficult as I believe all women should be respected for the diversity of their sexuality and personalities. I say this as we are all unique in this regard and I would not wish to offer prescriptive eulogies in the manner of Sinead O'Connor's supposedly 'open' letter to the singer Miley Cyrus a few months ago.

The wider context here is the fact that women are a marginalized group within the movie industry, when I think of the producer Emma Thomas, the writer and actress Brit Marling (pictured above) and Katheryn Bigelow; amongst thousands of others who bring so much to the world of film, I ask myself: why are women a marginalised group within the industry? It's almost become a subconscious apartheid that has been malevolently accepted as the norm. If this has become the cinematic modus operandi then it is truly time to light the flame and burn down these barriers. Thanks to Evan Rachel Wood for providing the ignition.