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Passages Director Responds to the Queer Romance Getting an NC-17 Rating

Passages Director Responds to the Queer Romance Getting an NC-17 Rating


He calls the rating “a form of cultural censorship that is quite dangerous."

Passages is one of our most-anticipated movies of 2023, but it’s going to be a lot harder for some people to see it.

The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, follows a messy love triangle that forms when one half of a gay couple sleeps with a woman and the other half starts his own affair. It’s exactly the kind of steamy drama we want to see.

Unfortunately, it’s been rated NC-17, meaning that no one under 17, even if accompanied by a parent or guardian, will be admitted to see the film. Now, the movie’s director is speaking out on what he calls “a form of cultural censorship that is quite dangerous, particularly in a culture which is already battling, in such extreme ways, the possibility of LGBT imagery to exist.”

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, director Ira Sachs said that he’s disappointed in the rating and wants people to be able to see the film.

“We hunger for movies that are in any proximity to our own experience,” he said. “To find a movie like this, which is then shut out, is, to me, depressing and reactionary.”

“It's so 1950s that this still exists,” Sachs continued, criticizing the Motion Picture Association's rating board as a whole. “We're talking about a board that is not visible, that doesn't make its rules known, that exists in silence. We're talking about a select group of people who have a certain bent, which seems anti-gay, anti-progress, anti-sex — a lot of things which I'm not.”

He also said that he’s not interested in re-editing the film to help it get an R rating.

“There's no untangling the film from what it is,” he said. “It is a film that is very open about the place of sexual experience in our lives. And to shift that now would be to create a very different movie.”

MUBI, who acquired the film out of Sundance, is standing behind it.

Passages is an honest and groundbreaking portrait of contemporary relationships, both queer and straight,” MUBI said in a statement. “Frank and thoughtful portrayals of sex are essential to cinematic storytelling and in service of representation more broadly. An NC-17 rating suggests the film's depiction of sex is explicit or gratuitous, which it is not, and that mainstream audiences will be offended by this portrayal, which we believe is also false.”

Passages stars Ben Whishaw, Franz Rogowski, and Adèle Exarchopoulos. It opens in Los Angeles and New York on August 4 before expanding to more theaters.
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