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'Truth' Hurts for Plans to Appeal NC-17

Call it a case of ratings interruptus.

ThinkFilm said Friday that it plans to appeal the NC-17 that the MPAA Classification and Ratings Administration has awarded Atom Egoyan's "Where the Truth Lies."

The only problem is that, according to the MPAA, the group hasn't officially published the movie's rating yet, and no appeal date has been set.

Based on a murder mystery by Rupert Holmes, "Truth" concerns an investigation into an unsolved murder that marred the career of a '50s stand-up comedy team (Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth). The film includes a menage a trois sex scene involving Bacon, Firth and actress Rachel Blanchard that many observers expect will result in an NC-17, which would make the movie off limits for viewers younger than 18.

According to sources familiar with discussions between CARA and the director, Egoyan has trimmed several scenes to the point where they would earn the less-restrictive R rating but that the menage a trois scene remains in NC-17 rating territory according to CARA. "Our understanding is that you must first accept the rating, which we did Thursday, and then you can request an appeal," one source said.

When journalists queried Egoyan about the movie's possible ratings difficulties at a media luncheon at this year's Festival de Cannes, the director said: "I guess I'm naive. I really had no idea it would be a problem. I just heard the deciding factor could be thrusting. Apparently, anything over three thrusts and you're in trouble. Well, nobody told me. I didn't even do covering shots, so there's nothing I can cut away to. This is what you get."

ThinkFilm chairman Robert Lantos, who also is the film's producer, acknowledged the challenge in reshaping the scene in question, saying: "This scene is done using a single sustained mastershot in order to allow the actors the most conducive environment for intimacy and intensity and in order to best communicate what happens in the film's pivotal scene. It cannot be cut without compromising the central scene of the narrative and thus rendering the mystery of the film incomprehensible. It remains more than a bit absurd to me that this scene would garner an R if shot exactly the same but from just the torso up but becomes an NC-17 because the mastershot reveals full bodies."

Added Lantos: "'Where the Truth Lies' is a sophisticated and intelligently provocative film. The NC-17 rating will unfairly limit people's access to it because of the number of theaters in America (that) will not play an NC-17-rated film."

Egoyan will speak on behalf of the film when an appeal is scheduled.

The film is to be released Oct. 14 in Los Angeles and New York, with a national expansion Oct. 21.

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