It’s “Schmaltz,” Say The French

The Independent newspaper here in Britain reports that France’s film raters will not give Fifty Shades of Grey an “adults only” rating. That means those as young as age 12 will be allowed to see it:

France’s classification president, Jean-Francois Mary, said that the movie, starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, “isn’t a film that… can shock a lot of people”.

He believes that the movie, which contains nudity and sadomasochism between an entrepreneur and a virginal student, is “a romance – you could even say schmaltz”.

The book was a huge seller in France as elsewhere, and the film will get a wide release there. However, while there have even been protests over the film in the U.S. and Britain about its portrayal of domestic violence, that rating in France is, one might say, a “Gallic shrug.” What Mr. Mary is essentially asserting there is that it’s not really a film that needs to be taken all that seriously by adults.

Yes, sex – even of a “deviant” variety – in films does tend to get a lesser reaction in France than in the U.S. or Britain. (Although I have always felt “Anglo-Saxons” misinterpret “the French” attitude towards sex.) That said, one has to question if “schmaltz” is really an accurate description. Based on what we’re reading about it, it’s not a “Doris Day” film either.

Screen capture of the Independent.
Screen capture of the Independent.

However a commenter on that Indie piece made an interesting single sentence point about that rating in France, and its relation to young adults and even mid-teens:

That’s only logical as the film appears to be made for exactly this age group.

At the risk of being serious, is there a “divide” between the books and the film? Not that the story is presented differently between the two media. (I have not read the books and have no plans to see the film.) Rather this: it is well-known the books were devoured by millions of “older” women, yet it is younger people who are far more likely to go to cinemas.

Meaning will many of those millions of “older” women who read the book actually go to see a film version of it? Would “older” women have perhaps been more likely to want to read that weird story privately on their Kindles, but the film commercially had to be aimed – even if subtly – at younger people? Younger women in particular?

And has that “divide” put the filmmakers, and U.S. and British film raters, in something of, uh, a bind?

A few years back, my wife and I had sat with our teenage (English) niece (she was probably 13 or 14 at the time) and we watched the original Twilight film on DVD. I was far more fascinated by my niece’s reaction to it than by the film itself: she was enthralled by it. And it is now widely known that Fifty Shades as a story began its life as Twilight “fan fiction” of course.

Have a good Saturday – and Valentine’s – wherever you are in the world. 🙂


UPDATE: I see Bookshelf Battle has already gone on the offensive: “Fifty Shades of Blech.” Click over for a read. So true.


  1. I love the way, some cultures are shocked by things other cultures look at with indifference. Old Shakespeare had a point .”There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” although voicing certain opinions can get you arrested these days so I’d better shut up.

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    • What’s always ironic is how some get all uptight over what consenting adults doing privately is portrayed on screen. Or, more accurately, perhaps what some writer “imagines” they do. Yet so many have far less of a problem with murder – including of young women: TV and films are full of it – as so-called “entertainment.”


  2. Thanks for the link, RJ. I hope I don’t come across as a curmudgeon, because one thing I do believe in is “Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to watch it.” At the end of the day, a successful writing career is based on pushing books and that’s what the author has done here.

    But I do think the success of this book and movie expose a bit of hypocrisy in our society – namely – guy with a torture room? Sounds like a Halloween horror flick. Oh wait? The guy’s rich and handsome? OK, Happy Valentine’s Day!

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