Every step of the release of Lars von Trier’s “The House That Jack Built” has been met with some sort of controversy. The film debuted at this year’s Cannes to decidedly mixed reviews (to be generous), with some critics walking out of the screening. Then von Trier did what he does and conducted a series of interviews that got people talking yet again. After that, there was the release of the marketing materials for the film, which included disturbing posters and a robocall that angered journalists. But now, as the film had its one-night-only director’s cut screening, IFC Films’ release of ‘Jack’ might have finally gone over the line.
For those not aware, after all the hullabaloo surrounding “The House That Jack Built’s” Cannes premiere, IFC Films decided the best way to release the film would be with a one-night-only screening of the full, unedited director’s cut (which is the version screened in France) followed by a traditional release of a slightly shorter (all of 80 seconds difference) version that gained an R-rating. However, in doing so, it appears the distributor violated some rules with the MPAA.
According to THR, the Motion Picture Association of America, the group that gives those coveted ratings to feature films, released a statement saying that “The House That Jack Built” violated rules and could end up earning IFC Films with some fairly serious sanctions in doing so. The MPAA says that releasing an unrated director’s cut so close to the film’s “official” release is confusing for moviegoers and could lead to parents (yes, the MPAA assumes that parents are the group that would be most hurt by von Trier’s film) mistakenly attending an unedited version thinking it’s the R-rated cut.
Here’s the full statement:
“The MPAA has communicated to the distributor, IFC Films, that the screening of an unrated version of the film in such close proximity to the release of the rated version — without obtaining a waiver — is in violation of the rating system’s rules. The effectiveness of the MPAA ratings depends on our ability to maintain the trust and confidence of American parents. That’s why the rules clearly outline the proper use of the ratings. Failure to comply with the rules can create confusion among parents and undermine the rating system — and may result in the imposition of sanctions against the film’s submitter.”
As for the consequences of IFC Film’s actions, the distributor will have to wait for the results of a hearing of the Classifications and Ratings Administration (CARA), which is the group that administers the ratings. IFC Films could end up seeing the R-rating revoked from the other cut of the film, as well as a suspension of the ratings process for other films from the distributor, for no more than 90 days.
It’s unclear whether or not this will actually happen at this time. Sure, it would be a shame for any film to jeopardize its release due to MPAA sanctions, but it would be interesting (and almost fitting) that von Trier’s latest film, which includes the brutal murders of women and children, would be the victim of the MPAA’s concern over losing the trust of the American parents.
As of now, the R-rated “The House That Jack Built” will hit theaters and VOD on December 14.