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Why I want to see an NC-17-rated movie

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Lust_lHow does the director of “the gay cowboy” movie top himself? Like this: Lust, Caution (pictured) — director Ang Lee’s upcoming follow-up to his Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain — is gonna be rated NC-17 for its “graphic sexuality”! That’s a fairly big deal, since studios with movies that get stuck with the deadly NC-17 usually hack away at their offending films until they win the much-more-marketable R-rating from the MPAA. Not this time. According to my fellow Gregg at the Hollywood Reporter, Focus Features has accepted the rating “without protest,” as Focus CEO (and Lust co-screenwriter) James Schamus put it.

This is welcome news, for a couple of reasons: (1) More movies need to be released with the NC-17, if only because this is how the rating will eventually gain the acceptance and respectability it needs to be commercially viable in the future. It would be awesome — as guys like Roger Ebert have long noted — to have a workable movie rating somewhere between the R and the old X, to single out films of artistic merit that are, nonetheless, absolutely unfit for youngsters . And, (2) Now I’m a lot more excited to see Lust, Caution on September 28. Here’s the line on the plot, from last week’s EW Fall Movie Preview:

“Set in 1940s Japanese-occupied Shanghai, Lust, Caution is an espionage thriller about a radical student (newcomer Tang Wei) on a mission to seduce—and murder—a politician (Hero’s Tony Leung) who has collaborated with the occupiers.”

Yeah, sounds promising, but mostly because Ang Lee is directing. Unlike Brokeback, which had the phrase “two gay cowboys” going for it, Lust didn’t have a perky marketing hook — until today. Now the NC-17 badge tells us that this movie isn’t the straight-up, potentially snoozy fall prestige release some of us might’ve been expecting; an NC-17 means Lust, Caution could get a little kee-razy. I’m so there.