Warner Bros., MPAA Take Critical Fire for Censoring Eyes

Stanley Kubrick's last film, Eyes Wide Shut, is too risqué for tender American sensibilities. Apparently, that is the position of executives at Warner Bros., who contrived to have digitally generated human figures inserted into an orgy scene in the controversial adult drama starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

The figures, intended to hide some of the scene's more explicit sexual imagery, enabled Warner Bros. to garner an R rating for the film from the Motion Picture Association of America, rather than the more restrictive NC-17 rating. The film will be seen outside the United States in its unaltered form, but theatergoers here will see something the director didn't intend. Kubrick died at his home in London shortly after the film was finished.

The decision outraged members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, 35 of whom issued a stinging denouncement of Warner Bros., the MPAA, and its president, Jack Valenti. Three high-profile critics—Variety's Todd McCarthy, and the L.A. Times' Kenneth Turan and Kevin Thomas—jointly penned the statement that was signed by their colleagues. The critics say the decision to digitally alter the movie to secure an R rating "once again proves the deeply chilling effect the ratings system is having on creative expression in film. By censoring Eyes Wide Shut, Warner Bros. and the MPAA have acted as if Stanley Kubrick made a pornographic movie. He did not."

"There is nothing in the original," Variety reports, "that Americans can't see any night on cable television." The critics were especially critical of the MPAA's long-standing double standard regarding sex and violence. Citing current releases like Wild Wild West and The Phantom Menace, they noted that extreme violence usually wins the organization's approval, but sexual content does not. MPAA president Jack Valenti dismissed the critics as "whiners." Neither Warner Bros. nor the MPAA responded officially to the criticism.

Variety ranked Eyes Wide Shut the #1 domestic box office draw only three days after its debut, during which time it pulled in more than $21 million in ticket sales.