Visit the local cineplex and you'll see larger-than-life selections: There's the one about space (Gravity), the one about racecars (Rush) and the one about a food storm (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2).
But the movie about life itself--particularly the complexity of love--is nowhere to be seen. Shackled to a NC-17 rating, Blue is the Warmest Color--one of the year's best films--won't appear in Boise movie houses anytime soon.
And therein lies one of the Gem State's most blatant forms of censorship: an entanglement of Idaho Code and rules governing alcohol beverage control.
Travel to any major U.S. metropolis this month, and you'll be able to see this year's Cannes Palme d'Or grand-prize winner, a must-see film. Alas, Boise's favorite showcase for foreign films and Oscar winners--The Flicks--won't go near this one. It turns out that the same Idaho law that allows The Flicks to serve beer and wine also forbids the theater from screening movies that are in violation of Idaho's code on indecency and obscenity. The Flicks' liquor license is tied directly to Idaho Code 23-614, which prohibits "acts or simulated acts of sexual intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, bestiality, oral copulation and flagellation," and "any person being touched, caressed or fondled on the breast, buttocks, anus or genitals."
Sources at Idaho's Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau within the Idaho State Police have told Boise Weekly that even some R-rated movies might be in violation of the code, but Idaho law enforcement would only move in if a complaint about the film's content was filed. And owners of The Flicks have told BW on several occasions over the years that they won't even chance booking a NC-17 film (Flicks management has been reluctant to talk on the record regarding what it calls "a sensitive topic").
Meanwhile, Edwards Cinemas, home to no less than 45 of the Treasure Valley screens, makes it a practice of not booking NC-17 rated films. But to Edwards' credit, after BW made a stink in 2011 about the lack of a screening for the critically acclaimed and NC-17 rated Shame (BW, Screen, "What a Shame," Nov. 30, 2011), the chain booked the film into its Boise facility for five days, albeit with little to no promotion.
Blue is the Warmest Color instantly became one of the most controversial films in movie history. This past spring, director Abdellatif Kechiche's adaptation of Julie Maroh's graphic novel had European audiences cheering at the elucidation of a young lady's Sapphic awakening. I was lucky enough to see the film at the Toronto International Film Festival in September... it left me uncomfortable and breathless. Blue, freely adapted from Maroh's graphic novel of the same name, is overpowering. The close-ups of the lovemaking are remarkable and never once feel dirty or exploitative, and the performances of leads Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux are mysterious, wonderful and, above all, courageous.
Blue is the Warmest Color is too good not to be seen. If only Idaho Code would allow it.