According to Box Office Mojo, the highest grossing NC-17 movie of all time is Showgirls. Of the 28 titles they list that have been released to theaters with that rating since 1990, half of them earned less than a million dollars. The NC-17 has a spotty financial track record, so movies that receive it typically go out unrated (a decision that comes with its own potential pitfalls) or bite the bullet and make concessions to the Motion Picture Association Of America in exchange for a more financially viable R.
But this year’s Palme d’Or winner Blue Is The Warmest Color is sticking to its guns (or, in this case, its explicit lesbian sex scenes) and venturing out into American theaters with an NC-17. The French film by director Abdellatif Kechiche tells the story of a decade-long romance between two women, played by Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. It received widespread acclaim from critics and audiences at Cannes, where it also won an honorary Palme for its two lead actresses.
Via press release, the film’s distributor, Sundance Selects, announced they accepted the MPAA’s decision to rate Blue NC-17 for “explicit sexual content.” Here’s what Sundance Selects President Jonathan Sehring had to say about the decision:
“This is a landmark film with two of the best female performances we have ever see on screen. The film is first and foremost a film about love, coming of age, and passion. We refuse to compromise Kechiche’s vision by trimming the film for an R rating, and we have every confidence that Blue Is The Warmest Color will play in theaters around the country regardless. An NC-17 rating no longer holds the stigma it once did, and we look forward to bringing this unforgettable film to audiences nationwide. We believe this film will leave a lasting imprint as the Last Tango In Paris for a whole new generation.”
In France, the Ministry of Culture rated Blue Is The Warmest Color “12,” designating it unsuitable only for kids under the age of 12. The French, ladies and gentlemen!
Last Tango In Paris (again: the French, ladies and gentlemen!) was released in America with the NC-17’s predecessor, the X rating, and grossed an incredible $36.1 million domestically. That’s the equivalent of more than $185 million today. According to Wikipedia (which is never wrong), Blue Is The Warmest Color cost a little over $5 million to make; so even a number approaching Last Tango In Paris’ unadjusted earnings would be a major win for Sundance. The film opens in theaters—the ones that allow NC-17 rated movies, anyway—on October 25.