10 films that caused a scandal when they were released – cinema news

From “A Clockwork Orange” to “And God … Created Woman”, discover or rediscover the controversies that accompanied the release of certain milestone films in the history of cinema.

10 films that caused a scandal when they were released - cinema news


In The Golden Age (1930), the director Luis Buñuel attacks the Church, the family and the army by proposing in particular (mentioned but visually ignored) an orgy scene in which participates a character dressed and hair like Christ. It shows shocking scenes like a man shooting a child who just played a trick on him. The film had already caused a stir in the social salons where it had been shown, but the scandal really erupted during a public screening disturbed by far-right and anti-Semitic activists who lead the censorship committee to seize the copies of the film, which will not be shown again until 1981. Before that date, it was screened at the Cinémathèque française in 1949, and a few copies will continue to circulate discreetly under the title In the frozen waters of selfish calculation.


Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) was hell. While filming, Christian fundamentalists claim that the work portrays Christ as a homosexual, although such a notion does not appear in Kazantzakis’ work or in the film Scorsese wishes to make. Despite everything, under the pressure of demonstrations and petitions, the fundamentalists obtain satisfaction, and Paramount Pictures drops the project, which is taken over by Universal. When it came out, the film was severely criticized. In France, several fires are caused in cinemas and in Paris, a room is the subject of a bomb attack leaving several wounded, including several in serious states. For these acts, five people were sentenced to terms of 15 to 36 months suspended imprisonment and 450,000 francs in damages.


In 1956, Roger Vadim was the husband of Brigitte Bardot and entrusted him with the main role of his feature film Et Dieu … Créa la femme. The fact of presenting a woman free to choose her loves, to let her desires guide her life, provokes different reactions. Some see progress in it and make Bardot a sex symbol at the same time as an icon of changes in mores. Others consider the film scandalous, reproaching him in particular for this very provocative character (who is not narratively condemned for his attitude). Seductive, the character of Bardot is indeed very independent and makes it known throughout the film, thus breaking down a number of taboos.

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When it was released, the Central Catholic Cinematograph called for not seeing the film, stating in particular in Cinema files : “despite the cuts (which were not all made in the commercial and the trailer), the sensuality that dominates this film forces us to strongly disapprove of it. The images are constantly at the limit of what the censorship yet very broad. – The situations are of a very low morality, all centered on jealousy, and especially desire “. And God created the woman released exclusively in Paris and produced 173,030 admissions in three weeks, before neighborhood cinemas across France took hold and carried And God created the woman to 3.91 million admissions.


Released at a time when cinema was still silent, Birth of a Nation celebrated its 106th birthday on February 8. The scenario presents a fresco on the American Civil War with a focus on the African-American population. From the play The clansman, the film does not hesitate to praise the Ku Klux Klan, to show blacks as insidious individuals animated by primitive and dangerous instincts. This places the viewer in a position where the heroes of the story are members of the anti-black militia, defending whites against barbarism orchestrated by African Americans and advocating the “Aryan birthright” (as a box of the film explicitly says). At the time, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People tried to have it banned for racism, but in vain, and Birth of a Nation is a resounding success. It is much more publicly contested today than in its time, notably by the author Ellen C. Scott, who did not hesitate to to qualify of “arguably the most racist film ever made”, or by directors Spike Lee and Ava Duvernay.


In The Last Tango in Paris (1972), Paul (Marlon Brando), an American living in Paris, meets Jeanne (Maria Schneider) and they go to see each other regularly in an apartment to make love while ignoring any one of the ‘other. The film was particularly controversial during a scene of rape by sodomy. In France, The Last Tango in Paris is forbidden to under 18 years and the film is entirely banned in Italy from 1972 to 1986. The aforementioned scene will be all the more scandalous when we learn that it was shot without the knowledge of Maria Schneider, then 19 years old. Neither Brando nor director Bernardo Bertolucci warned the actress about the use of butter as a lubricant. The interested party will relate that during the filming of the sequence, she felt “raped”.

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When Maria Schneider died in 2011, Bertolucci told the Italian agency Ansa that he wanted to apologize to her: “His death came too soon. Before I could kiss her tenderly, tell her that I felt as connected to her as the first day, and, at least for once, ask her forgiveness. Maria accused me of having stolen her youth and only today I wonder if that was not partly true. “


Inspired by a news item, L’Empire des sens (1976) tells the story of the encounter between a former geisha and prostitute who became a servant and her lover. Together, they decide to isolate themselves to live an intense carnal passion. The scandal comes in particular from the fact that sexuality is explicitly shown in the film and in a non-simulated way. This artistic choice shocks several countries including Japan, because Empire of the senses does not respect any of the conditions of diffusion imposed by the local censorship: it would be necessary that scenes are purely and simply cut and that blur is put on the genitals, which is not the case. A trial will open for “obscenity” of the scenario and the photos taken on the set, but the director Nagisa Oshima will be released after three years of proceedings, citing freedom of expression.


During its visit to the Cannes Film Festival in 1973, La Grande bouffe by Marco Ferreri created controversy and sparked an outburst of whistles and jeers. In question, the two hours devoted to the suicide by excess of food of four characters (Philippe Noiret, Michel Piccoli, Ugo Tognazzi and Marcello Mastroianni), punctuated by nudity, orgies and even scatological moments. The film is competing for France, and this satire on consumer society is not to the liking of all spectators or all critics. Nevertheless, Feast will be a popular success, bringing together 2.4 million curious in the rooms, but Michel Piccoli will tell years later at France Culture: “This film triggered in the spectators a fantasy upside down of this metaphysical and sensual film at the same time. It upset them and it infuriated them ”, describing “Extravagant aggression, spitting, kicking, profanity” suffered by the team in Cannes.

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In the Fascist puppet republic of Salò, four notables kidnap adolescents from the region to imprison them in a sumptuous palace and submit them to their wishes … Free adaptation of the One hundred and twenty days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, critic of capitalist society, Salò ou les 120 jours de Sodom (1976) by Pier Paolo Pasolini presents scenes including excrement, rape, torture and explicit mutilation. This shocking Pasolini film was banned in Great Britain until 2000, and until 2001 in New Zealand!

In 1976, the critic François Chalais brought the film to television:


A woman is raped by a stranger. Her boyfriend and her ex-boyfriend decide to take justice into their own hands. In 2002, the presentation of Irreversible at Cannes was stormy to say the least, since the film was marked by two unbearable sequences: a 9-minute rape and a long murder with a fire extinguisher, which disturbed the spectators, as evidenced by our period room exit. Gaspar Noé’s film, very trying, will be released in French theaters with a ban for under 16s with warning, where other countries like Italy or Germany will classify it as banned for those under 18.


By adapting the novel byAnthony burgess The Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick stages the life of Alex, a young gang leader sadistically exercising a blind terror, imprisoned and becoming a guinea pig for experiments intended to curb crime. When it comes out, we reproach the film for its “sexual violence” considered too extreme, and the casualness with which it is directed, especially the fact that it is presented as entertainment like any other for the young heroes of the film. The controversy is such that the family of director Stanley Kubrick is harassed and A Clockwork Orange (1972) is withdrawn from the poster in the United Kingdom. It wasn’t until Kubrick’s death in 1999 and the film’s video release and again in theaters, that it can now be seen freely in the territory.

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