1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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therewillbeblus
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#26 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jun 10, 2021 4:41 pm

MichaelB wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 3:48 pm
Well, it's a racing certainty that this box won't be released in Britain, and not just because Indicator still has the rights to Watermelon Man.

The BBFC passed Sweet Sweetback uncut at first, and then turned up incontrovertible evidence that Mario Van Peebles was underage at the time of shooting. And in Britain, even possession of underage sexual material is a crime, so they had no choice but to cut it.
I'm not sure if this is a U.S. law or just MA as far as stringency, but even seeing child pornography accidentally is an offense one needs to confess to (this came up a lot at my last job around legality where parents were coached to not open their child's iPad when there was a report that the child and another took pictures of one another's genitals on a bus; but also extended to a recent case I worked on where a father had to take precautions to avoid passing his teenage daughter on her phone due to reports of exchanging nudes, which if he saw in passing he essentially needed to admit to the authorities). So yeah, I don't see how, if he was underage, this would be legal for anyone to watch in at least my state, unless there's a law about active/dated content. [Note: I am not a lawyer and am only going by what my superiors in senior management consulting with lawyers have informed me of in past instances of which I was the direct case manager.]

Orlac
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#27 Post by Orlac » Thu Jun 10, 2021 6:38 pm

It's rather frustrating if a collection of films contains one hot water title. I was planning on collecting the Kino "Forbidden Fruit" series but skipped one set as it contained Child Bride, which I assume would be rejected/cut if ever submitted to the UK censors. Similary, I can't import the Erwin Dietrich Jess Franco set as some of those featured an under 18 actress. I guess my OCD collective nature isn't strong enough to risk jail for!

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knives
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#28 Post by knives » Thu Jun 10, 2021 6:46 pm

No one in America would ever go to jail for this film. Frankly I’m finding these hysterics a bit over the top when it comes to this film in particular.

Orlac
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#29 Post by Orlac » Thu Jun 10, 2021 6:54 pm

knives wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 6:46 pm
No one in America would ever go to jail for this film. Frankly I’m finding these hysterics a bit over the top when it comes to this film in particular.
In the UK, it is technically illegal to own, though I'm not aware of anyone ever being proscecuted of owning such a film. In The Realm of the Senses were similary banned until about 10 years ago, and that was a known title on customs watch lists apparently.

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The Pachyderminator
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#30 Post by The Pachyderminator » Thu Jun 10, 2021 7:02 pm

I'm sure Criterion has a perfectly good legal staff. If they're confident that the film is legal to sell (in the US), no one is going to get in trouble for buying it.

How you should feel about the content is a different question. Van Peebles himself, for his part, has no time for your scruples:
Mr. VAN PEEBLES: Business is business. What the heck? Didn't seem to harm or hurt him a bit.

MARTIN: Would he agree?

Mr. VAN PEEBLES: I wouldn't ask him. Hey, I'm the parent.

MARTIN: What about his other parent. What about his mother? Where was she during this?

Mr. VAN PEEBLES: Hey, hey, I didn't ask her. I'm not running a democracy here. I'm running a fascist state. Do what I say.

...

There was nothing unethical about it. It's going to - it's going to happen. Hey, we are trying to survive. When I was a kid from 10 years old I worked every day for my dad, huh? Never played basketball. I never played tennis, never did. We worked so that we could eat. OK? And I guess you could've called say, what, that's not ethical, that's work, et cetera, et cetera. Nah, you've got to do what you've got to do.
FWIW, if IMDB's description is accurate, it sounds like it's about at the level of Murmur of the Heart.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#31 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jun 10, 2021 7:12 pm

Yeah, I wasn't trying to suggest that anyone who purchases this will be prosecuted, that's ridiculous- just responding to Michael's claim about the U.K.'s laws, that to my knowledge also exist in the U.S., so I'm not sure why it'd be a dealbreaker for one and not the other. I don't see how noting personal examples that fit the stated concerns of legality between countries is construed as "hysterics" though perhaps it's a digression more suitable for another thread.

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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#32 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jun 10, 2021 7:18 pm

knives wrote:No one in America would ever go to jail for this film. Frankly I’m finding these hysterics a bit over the top when it comes to this film in particular.
It’s not “hysterics” to point out the legal problems that this film has encountered in the UK and none of the posts here have been the least bit over the top, with the possible exception of the one that I’m replying to now.

I think it’s highly unlikely that anyone would be jailed for possessing it in the UK, given the rigmarole of mounting (and funding, and justifying) a prosecution, but the fact that it remains a legal possibility is worth highlighting. Under current UK law, any underage sexual material is effectively regarded as criminal evidence - context, artistic merit and indeed parental permission can’t be admitted as a defence.

Orlac
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#33 Post by Orlac » Thu Jun 10, 2021 7:23 pm

No Van Peebles set is complete without Jaws: The Revenge anyway....

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Brian C
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#34 Post by Brian C » Thu Jun 10, 2021 10:16 pm

There are so many city- and county-level prosecutors in the US that are completely and utterly batty, so I confess that I don’t understand why anyone would dismiss the possibility of prosecution out of hand. I’m not saying that it would be a successful prosecution, but wasn’t some guy arrested for renting THE TIN DRUM from Blockbuster some years back? This kind of idiocy happens here all the time.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#35 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jun 10, 2021 10:51 pm

True, to clarify my statement above I meant “everyone” by “anyone” (as in ‘I wasn’t trying to suggest that anyone who purchases the set will be prosecuted and should be fearful of it’); that it was ridiculous to assume an automatic penalty rather than excluding any possibility of this occurring. I also don’t think that any parent who accidentally sees a nude pic on their kid’s phone gets arrested, and DCF investigations for these things, in my experience, always work out in favor of the ignorant party by getting screened out. It was just worth mentioning as a point of interest, considering a major label is releasing a film that may potentially be placing consumers in a position where they are violating the law to watch it in more than one major country.

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swo17
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#36 Post by swo17 » Fri Jun 11, 2021 12:07 am


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EddieLarkin
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#37 Post by EddieLarkin » Fri Jun 11, 2021 5:05 am

Orlac wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 6:38 pm
It's rather frustrating if a collection of films contains one hot water title. I was planning on collecting the Kino "Forbidden Fruit" series but skipped one set as it contained Child Bride, which I assume would be rejected/cut if ever submitted to the UK censors. Similary, I can't import the Erwin Dietrich Jess Franco set as some of those featured an under 18 actress. I guess my OCD collective nature isn't strong enough to risk jail for!
What does Child Bride feature that you think would be cut? I don't know much about the film but if it's child nudity then I don't believe that would be a problem by itself, Pretty Baby was passsed uncut in UK cinemas and on home video for example. I assume for instance that the imagery censored in Arrow's Sister Street Fighter set was a child in a sexualised pose?

As for the Goya Jess Franco releases, they clearly have the potential to be problematic, especially for me since I have a number of them sat in my house right now. Do you happen to know which film(s) used underage actresses?

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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#38 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jun 11, 2021 5:21 am

Non-sexualised nudity of any age is fine (see Walkabout for an excellent example), and even child nudity in a sexualised context might be OK (see below) - it's only when the material crosses the line into what is effectively a recording of actual sexual activity that the law steps in. I was very conscious when watching A Serbian Film that it had been very carefully staged so that it was obvious from the editing that at no point was an actual child present in the same shot as onscreen sexual atrocities - which is why even the BBFC admitted that it would probably be OK under the 1978 Child Protection Act, although in the event the extreme sexualised violence involving adults caused problems in other areas.

Incidentally, I'm not sure where you got the idea from that Pretty Baby was passed uncut, because it was the first high-profile test case after the passage of the PCA, and two changes were in fact made - for (a lot) more detail, see the relevant BBFC case study. One of the requested changes illustrates the problem posed by the Act, which is that context and artistic merit (i.e. Louis Malle's defence) doesn't carry any legal weight - in which respect the PCA differs from the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, whose "artistic merit" defence makes it very difficult for a film to be prosecuted purely for obscenity unless it's actual rape porn or something similar. They subsequently decided on the basis of far greater experience of dealing with the PCA that it was unlikely that a prosecution would result, and so passed it uncut on VHS and DVD - but it's important to note that the material in Pretty Baby (sexualised child nudity, which might be legally defensible on a case-by-case basis) isn't the same issue as the one in Sweet Sweetback (a child involved in sexual activity, which is explicitly proscribed under all circumstances).

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EddieLarkin
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#39 Post by EddieLarkin » Fri Jun 11, 2021 5:35 am

Thanks for the link Michael, I didn't spot any details on the BBFC listing and knew the home video releases were uncut, so made an assumption.

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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#40 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:14 am

I suppose the other issue is that such material might get used for 'grooming' scenarios, which appears to have been the reason why the final scene of Catherine Breillat's Fat Girl/A Ma Soeur! (in which the girl forgives her deus ex machina attacker, and therefore nullifies his subjugating power over her, during her assault) was cut on its UK release. Which ironically turns the ending from (problematically) victorious to pure (but morally unproblematic) violation.

That small but crucial edit to that film almost completely destroys the entire reason for that film's existence.

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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#41 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:24 am

Probably worth mentioning that it was passed uncut theatrically, where presumably it was considered unlikely that any "grooming" situation would arise.

Orlac
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#42 Post by Orlac » Fri Jun 11, 2021 8:25 am

EddieLarkin wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 5:05 am
Orlac wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 6:38 pm
It's rather frustrating if a collection of films contains one hot water title. I was planning on collecting the Kino "Forbidden Fruit" series but skipped one set as it contained Child Bride, which I assume would be rejected/cut if ever submitted to the UK censors. Similary, I can't import the Erwin Dietrich Jess Franco set as some of those featured an under 18 actress. I guess my OCD collective nature isn't strong enough to risk jail for!
What does Child Bride feature that you think would be cut? I don't know much about the film but if it's child nudity then I don't believe that would be a problem by itself, Pretty Baby was passsed uncut in UK cinemas and on home video for example. I assume for instance that the imagery censored in Arrow's Sister Street Fighter set was a child in a sexualised pose?

As for the Goya Jess Franco releases, they clearly have the potential to be problematic, especially for me since I have a number of them sat in my house right now. Do you happen to know which film(s) used underage actresses?
CB - apparently there is a skinny dipping scene, and the title alone could set alarm bells off.

The problematic Franco titles are Love Letters of a Portuguese Num and Women in Cellblock 9 - actresss Susan Hemmigway was 16/17 in them, legal where they were filmed, but not in the UK.

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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#43 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Jun 11, 2021 8:26 am

Spoiler for A Ma Soeur!Show
This might be better off in the thread dedicated to the film, but that BBFC edit to A Ma Soeur! was actually very telling because really the entire film is about 'grooming' not just that final moment, since the first two thirds are dedicated to the presumably relatively societally acceptable systematic deflowering of the 'pretty' sister by the similarly aged young man creeping into her bedroom at night to whisper sweet, meaningless nothings in her ear whilst the main character of the less conventionally pretty girl watches on whilst pretending to sleep. And then the main character in some ways conjures up (or the film 'sympathetically' conjures up for her) the murderer-attacker at the climax in order to fulfill her wish to have her deflowering be an unloving one so that she can just get it out of the way and move on rather than have all the fuss made about it as had been the case with her sister.

In a way the film is equating both versions of deflowering as a kind of semi-consensual underage assault where the only option in which the girl can really emerge unscathed through it is by not being taken in by platitudes, even if that leads to ever greater detachment from empathy and feeling for anyone or anything in general. And amusingly our main character does go on to pre-emptively berate the police for their own tired assumptions and platitudes at the end as well!

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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#44 Post by schellenbergk » Fri Jun 11, 2021 11:11 am

Brian C wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 10:16 pm
There are so many city- and county-level prosecutors in the US that are completely and utterly batty, so I confess that I don’t understand why anyone would dismiss the possibility of prosecution out of hand. I’m not saying that it would be a successful prosecution, but wasn’t some guy arrested for renting THE TIN DRUM from Blockbuster some years back? This kind of idiocy happens here all the time.
Close - the guy was named Michael Sky Camfield and he was working for the OK ACLU and - well this is from his obit
In 1997, an Oklahoma resident complained that the academy award-winning German movie The Tin Drum contained child pornography and therefore violated Oklahoma law. After a local judge viewed the movie and agreed with the complainant, the police subsequently went to neighborhood video stores and removed all copies of The Tin Drum, and obtained, without a warrant, the names of those who were currently renting it. One copy had been rented by Michael who got wind of the impending seizure and wanted to see if the movie was really objectionable. Police came to Michael’s house and asked for the cassette, which he handed over after some discussion of "the artistic merits of the movie."

The ACLU of Oklahoma filed suit, and the court found that the city violated Michael's rights by obtaining his rental records without a court order or warrant. The court awarded Michael the statutory minimum of $2500, but more importantly, a victory for civil liberties.

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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#45 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jun 11, 2021 1:25 pm

The Tin Drum was passed uncut by the BBFC every time it was submitted to them, which suggests that while it gets near the knuckle at times, there are no individual shots that actually infringe the Protection of Children Act. And they tend to be ultra-cautious about this kind of thing, so I think we can safely say that, whatever an Oklahoma judge might think, this film definitely does not contain child pornography, at least not by British standards. (And British standards are amongst the strictest in the world.)

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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#46 Post by beamish14 » Fri Jun 11, 2021 2:46 pm

The Tin Drum was banned outright in Quebec for a time. Each Canadian province has its own film board, which can ban films as they see fit. Another notable example was Saskatchewan banning the execrable Garry Marshall "comedy" Exit to Eden, but that ban was reversed relatively quickly.

For more insights into Canadian attitudes regarding censorship, watch Atom Egoyan's phenomenal The Adjuster

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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#47 Post by GaryC » Sat Jun 12, 2021 7:13 pm

I saw Sweetback at the National Film Theatre in an uncut print - it was followed by an interview with Van Peebles by Darcus Howe, which is presumably the one that's included on Indicator's release of Watermelon Man.

Back at University in the mid 1980s, I suggested Sweetback as a possible for the film society to show, and was told by someone who had been there longer that it wasn't in UK distribution and never had been and UK customs didn't like it because of a scene of underage sex. The first part of that was certainly true then, but where he heard the latter from, I don't know. An issue for me is not just that Melvin Van Peebles filmed his underage son in a (presumbly simulated) sex scene, but that he claimed that it was a different and older actor in the scene.

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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#48 Post by Rupert Pupkin » Sat Jun 12, 2021 9:46 pm

I've watched the trailer of "La Permission" (aka "Story Of A 3-Days Pass") - Am I wrong, or is this movie unavailable on DVD ? I have seen some poor VHS transfer.
The X4 restoration looks gorgeous.
Will it be available via streaming before the release of this box set ?
I have ve seen some Q&A discussion about the movie on youtube. This will be a part of the bonus ?

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swo17
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Re: 1093-1096 Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films

#49 Post by swo17 » Sat Jun 12, 2021 9:59 pm

There's a company called Xenon that had previously put the three independent features (i.e. all but Watermelon Man) out on DVD

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