Irwin-Rice Kiss (1896)May Irwin and John Rice starred in a New York stage comedy The Widow Jones. They re-created their kiss for Edison's film company. A reviewer noted: "The spectacle of the prolonged pasturing on each other's lips was beastly enough in life size on the stage but magnified to gargantuan proportions and repeated three times over it is absolutely disgusting."
The Gay Shoe Clerk (1903)In 1975 Laura Mulvey wrote an influential essay, "Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema," essentially claiming that films were all about presenting women as fantasy objects for men. There's a long history of that, and the objectification is noted in this annotated version of The Gay Shoe Clerk.
The exhibition of moving pictures is a business, pure and simple, originated and conducted for profit, like other spectacles, not to be regarded, nor intended to be regarded by the Ohio Constitution, we think, as part of the press of the country, or as organs of public opinion.In other words, state governments were free to ban films, since they were not constitutionally protected speech.
Even if it be assumed that motion pictures possess a greater capacity for evil, particularly among the youth of a community, than other modes of expression, it does not follow that they are not entitled to the protection of the First Amendment or may be subjected to substantially unbridled censorship.This was the beginning of the end of film censorship in the United States.
The Pawnbroker. Meanwhile, in Ontario, a theatre planning to show a Japanese erotic fable, Woman in the Dunes, threatened to sue the Ontario Board of Censors if the female nudity in the film was cut. The Board passed the film uncut.
Roger Ebert commented, "two hours of this movie will drive thoughts of sex out of your mind for weeks." It was approved in Ontario, with cuts.
There is also I Am Curious (Blue), from 1968. It's a different version of the same film, with the same cast and crew. Yellow and Blue refer to the colours of the Swedish flag.
Héroux, who had friends at the National Film Board of Canada, started Cinepix (later CFP and now Lionsgate Films) and made Valérie, a low budget black and white exploitation picture about a nun who becomes a topless dancer. A series of similar films led to Variety coining the term "Maple Syrup Porn" for Canadian made soft-core porn films. Héroux went on to produce many films, including Atlantic City and Black Robe, and received the Order of Canada for his contributions to the film industry.
The MPAA changed the Midnight Cowboy rating to R in 1971, even though there were not any changes to the film. Midnight Cowboy is the only X rated film to have won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Roger Ebert, panned it, and for better or worse it entered popular culture. Bans and trials in many jurisdictions only added to its notoriety. Although criticized for its minimal plot and low production values, in the world of adult sex films it was noteworthy for having a plot and some production values.
It was quietly approved for distribution in Ontario in 1990, though it was not until 1992 that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that consensual portrayals of explicit sex were not obscene. (British Columbia started allowing sexually explicit films in the 1980s).
A Toronto theatrical showing in 2000 attracted protests, on the grounds that the film portrayed sexual violence. At issue was not the content, but the abusive conditions under which Linda Boreman made it. The board noted that they could only consider the on screen content, and that the film was "a cut above 99% of the films that we now see at the board."
Ontario already had a reputation for strict censorship, and the Tin Drum cuts were the last straw. The government appointed a new chair and restructured the Board with part time citizen reviewers instead of civil servants. The film eventually passed with two cuts. During media coverage of the issue, the scenes to be cut were shown during news broadcasts.
In 1997, an Oklahoma County judge declared The Tim Drum to be child pornography. Police subsequently seized video copies from stores, libraries, and from the homes of people who had rented the movie. Eventually federal courts ruled that the confiscation had been unconstitutional and the film was not obscene.
In April of 2000, undercover Theatres Act Inspectors purchased the adult sex video Descent in a Toronto specialty bookstore. The video had not been rated and as a result the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial relations charged the store, Glad Day Bookshop, and its owner with Distributing an Unapproved Film, in violation of the Theatres Act. Four years later, the Ontario Supreme Court ruled that mandatory film rating was unconstitutional.
The Ontario government created a completely new Theatres Act, with changes such as allowing an unlimited amount of explicit sexual activity in mainstream films, but mandatory rating is still in place, and some films can still be banned. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia also still have mandatory rating and the option to ban films. Alberta has ratings for theatrical releases only.