From the Vaults: Shame
"Showgirls" despoiled the NC-17 rating
By Marjorie Baumgarten,
5:25PM, Fri. Dec. 16, 2011
The opening this week of Shame, the riveting story of a sex addict and his sister (who, to paraphrase the movie, are not bad people but, rather, come from a bad place), is the first NC-17 release to appear on Austin screens in 2011. The rating means that no one under 17 can see the movie.
Most of the time, films that initially receive an NC-17 rating are edited down to an R before release time. An even greater number of films bypass the stigmatizing ratings system altogether and enter the marketplace with no rating whatsoever.
By my count, Shame is the 17th NC-17-rated film in The Austin Chronicle's film archives. (Our online database includes films reviewed between the years 1991 and 2011 – 20 years worth of reviews! At some point in the future, all 30 years of the paper's reviews will become digitally available.) Since the NC-17 rating was introduced in 1990 (as a replacement for the X rating), this means that a review for almost every NC-17 movie that has ever played Austin can be found here. Click on the "Browse All Film Reviews" link on the left to access.
What is quickly evident is that almost all of these NC-17 films were well-reviewed, receiving three stars or more. The exception? Showgirls – a film that's appeared at the bottom of many a list over the years. Now it also ranks as the bottom feeder on the list of NC-17 films reviewed by The Austin Chronicle. For the record, Shame is reviewed here as one of the best, along with Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education, Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, John Waters' A Dirty Shame, and Todd Haynes' Poison.