On several occasions in the past, the Indian Central Board of Film Certification (ICBFC) has frustrated obstinate Hollywood filmmakers unwilling to amend their films to comply with strict government mandates posed by the committee. Woody Allen’s refusal to distribute his newest film, Blue Jasmine, this past weekend due to the ICBFC’s requirement of cigarette-related health warnings (not only preceding the start of the film but also within the diegesis itself) is the latest such incident.
Largely due to lead actor Cate Blanchett’s intricately captivating performance (which has pegged her as a surefire Oscar nominee), Blue Jasmine is widely held as Allen’s most impressive work of late, serving as a refreshingly original display of the director’s distinct brand of neurosis we have all come to adore. This story of the simultaneous disintegration of a middle-aged New York lace-curtain’s social status and sanity following her husband’s unexpected arrest and subsequent suicide, was programmed to show in over 30 Indian theaters.
Deepak Sharma, COO of PVR Pictures (the Indian distribution company managing Blue Jasmine), said in a statement, “Woody Allen has creative control as per the agreement… He wasn’t comfortable with the disclaimer that we are required to run when some smoking scene is shown in films. He feels that when the scroll comes, attention goes to it rather than the scene.”
As mentioned, this auteurial refusal to sacrifice artistic integrity is not the first in India’s distribution history. Just last year, David Fincher held his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo from release for similar reasons. Previously, Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, which premiered after the director’s death, fell short of making it to the silver screen, due to the his “final cut” privileges.