This Film Is Not Yet Rated - DVD Review

'thrilling to watch, if only for the gleeful nature of Dick's system-bothering methods and humour'

In the first third of Kirby Dick's documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, the director-cum-interviewer threatens to give numerous members of the Hollywood elite a(nother) mouthpiece with which to spout off on whatever issue happens to cross their psyche. Chief offender here (and oh-isn't-this-topical-at-the-moment) is Kevin Smith who when confronted with Dick, who specifically wants to talk about censorship and how it works in America, mouths off on, well, whatever the hell he damn well wants to. It threatens to devalue Dick's film and the fact that directors of provocative material are unhappy with raters is hardly revelatory or even anything approaching new. But then, Dick does something really clever, shifting the focus off the filmmaker and onto the filmrater, a far more interesting and elusive creature that eventually is forced to take Dick's intelligent ire, rather than Hollywood's moaning polemics.

Whilst the UK's own rating system has its fair share of historical mishaps (the video nastys era in particular), Dick's point about the US system is that it always was, is and will be fundamentally flawed and corrupt, run like a fascist regime, by largely anonymous officials. The points he makes are largely successful and, coupled with the detective story that grows out of the self-aggrandising opening, his history lesson makes for a well presented, occasionaly tense and revealing expose.

The few miss-steps in the final two thirds of This Film begin to creep in when Dick makes more general points about the people he uncovers within this organisation. 'She lives in this multi-million dollar property', Dick flashes on to the screen at one point, like this makes his subject an inherently bad person. The main focus of his argument as well, Jack Valenti, founder of the MPAA rating system, has a lot of generic 'he is friends with this CEO' criticisms hurled in his direction and, whilst his 'guilt' is probably not in doubt, Dick sometimes struggles to find enough direct evidence to show us.

Alert viewers will see where Dick is going with the film and, in the end, it becomes a bit of a metaphysical entity which denotes itself outside of the documentary genre and more into the none existent 'science experiment' one. This part in particular is thrilling to watch, if only for the gleeful nature of Dick's system-bothering methods and humour but equally for the conversations and situations you know are happening behind the closed wall of the MPAA. A very interesting oddity that delivers a lot more than it initially promises, despite some moments where its sweeps are too broad.

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'the kicker is that the MPAA often condemns sexuality in films far more often than violence, an observation that Dick’s film wisely covers with some intriguing examples' -, 3.5 out of 4


  1. I did a report for school on the MPAA awhile ago, and this movie came round my research. Yet, in an especially ironic twist, my teacher wouldn't let me use any R or otherwise unrated films on the subject.

  2. I think that's possibly the most fascinating thing about this. I don't think I'm spoiling anything (you'll find out if you look it up on Netflix, IMDb or LOVEFiLM) by saying that the film ended up with an 18 in the UK and initially a NC-17 in the states. It does contain some brief graphic images of sex and violence from other films but they're being used as examples: the film isn't graphically violent or anything like that. It's almost like censoring a critical essay because it discusses sexuality in LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER or something.

    Certainly thought provoking anyway.