Final curtain for Italian film censorship

Rome (AFP) –


Born in 1914 at the dawn of cinema, Italy's censorship law felled some giants of the silver screen including "Last Tango in Paris" -- but now faces its own curtain call.

"Film censorship has been abolished," announced Culture Minister Dario Franceschini in a statement late Monday.

"And the system of controls and interventions that still allow the state to intervene in the freedom of artists has been definitively ended."

As a result, it will now no longer be possible to block the release of a new film or demand edits on moral or religious reasons.

Instead, filmmakers will classify their own movies based on the age of the audience.

Their decisions will be verified by a new commission made up of 49 members chosen from the film industry, but also experts in education and animal rights.

"It's a form of self-regulation. We are mature enough," director Pupi Avati, whose 1970s film "Bordella" was censored, told AFP.

Hundreds of films have been censored in Italy over the last century, primarily for political, moral and religious reasons.

Most famous was Bernardo Bertolucci's steamy Oscar-nominated 1972 classic "Last Tango In Paris", all copies of which were destroyed except for three preserved as "proof of the crime".

Scrapping the law is a "important and historic step for Italian cinema", said Elena Boero, a film expert.

"It was time," she told AFP.

According to a survey by Cinecensura, an online exhibition promoted by the culture ministry, 274 Italian films, 130 American movies and 321 from other countries have been censured in Italy since 1944.

More than 10,000 were modified in some way, with works by directors including Federico Fellini among them.

But it wasn't all bad news for the artists -- paradoxically, censorship had an effect of drawing in viewers.

"It make films more seductive, generating public interest, especially those with an erotic theme," said Avati.

The last major case of censorship was in 1998 with the blasphemous and grotesque "Toto Who Lived Twice", which was strongly criticised by traditional Catholics.