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‘Showgirls,’ ‘Kids’ Will Test Ratings System

Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti may want early retirement after dealing with the upcoming back-to-back ratings for two controversial movies, Paul Verhoeven’s “Showgirls” and Larry Clark’s “Kids.”

The presence of both films, each with explicit sexual content and sure to bring NC-17 ratings, is being felt in Cannes.

On Sunday afternoon at the Cannes Film Festival, Verhoeven screened for foreign distributors and the press about 13 minutes of compiled footage from his provocative movie about Las Vegas showgirls. The trailer featured wall-to-wall fleshy images of topless revues and nude lap dancing.

The heavily European audience cheered at the end of the screening. While one journalist noted the pornographylike nature of the sequences, foreign distributors exalted about the film’s potential overseas. The film’s German distributor predicted the movie will be a big hit in his country.

In an interview after the screening, Verhoeven said he doesn’t anticipate any audience or media backlash, nor any censorship problems in Europe, because of the more relaxed attitudes toward sex. He said he’s making no special edited version for foreign TV broadcast. The director does, however, acknowledge that his movie may not be as well received in more “puritan” markets, such as Australia, Korea and the United Kingdom.

Verhoeven, whose last erotic outing, 1992’s “Basic Instinct,” is also realistic about what “Showgirls” may stir up at home.

“I expect more anger, irritation and worse problems in the United States,” he said.

Even before he signed onto the project, Verhoeven made it clear that he intended to shoot the script by Joe Eszterhas (“Basic Instinct”) as an NC-17 movie. He also has no intentions of cutting his movie to appease the MPAA’s rating board.

Meanwhile, Miramax Films, which also prides itself on pushing the provocative envelop, screened its 90-minute movie “Kids” Monday in Cannes for the world press. Directed by noted still photographer Larry Clark, the gritty and disturbing film is billed as a cautionary tale about a group of urban American teens and their abandoned sexuality and drug abuse in the age of AIDS.

Miramax’s parent company, Disney, is apoplectic about the film and has demanded that Miramax pay it back the money it had spent for the rights. Valenti is said to be gritting his teeth over “Kids” and is once again prepared to go to war with Miramax brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein.

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