Offensive content | Saint-Narcisse banned from Amazon Prime Video

The film St. Narcissus, by Canadian director Bruce LaBruce, is no longer available on Amazon Prime Video. The reason the streaming giant gives? “offensive content”. Despite his delight in breaking taboos, the creator says he’s the victim of more insidious censorship than ever.

Posted at 7:00 am

Samuel Larochelle
special cooperation

St. Narcissuswhich stars Félix-Antoine Duval had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September 2020. It explored notions of narcissism, twins, incest and homosexuality, and skipped a few slaps in the labors of many priests before he went with the Graffetta d’Oro Best Film Prize, awarded on the fringes of the festival.

Almost two years later, the film was rejected by the Amazon Prime Video platform in the UK. In the process, it was withdrawn from its American and French equivalents, where it nonetheless aired for nearly six months. “The only reason given to us by our UK distributor, Pecadillo Pictures, was an issue of objectionable content,” explains the director in a joint interview with producer Nicolas Comeau.

He struggles to understand the situation. “In 2022, it doesn’t make sense,” argues Mr. Comeau. If you’ve seen the film, there’s nothing offensive about it… except maybe in the eyes of Mother Teresa. »

Bruce LaBruce enters with a grin.

I would not go so far. There are frontal nude scenes, but they were shot with a little distance. This is not uncommon for Amazon Prime Video and for most streaming platforms.

Bruce LaBruce, filmmaker

He hypothesizes that other, more subtle, boundary crossings may have been unsettling. “There’s a scene where adult twins have sex, but you don’t see any genitals. It is more romantic than mechanical. »

After helping to fund the film, CBC considered showing the film on its airwaves before assigning it to GEM, the English-Canadian “As far as I know, it’s because of the scene with a child seeing their mother having a moment of physical intimacy with a pregnant woman,” LaBruce said. Yet there is no nudity. »

The UK spokesman for Amazon Prime Video contacted on Tuesday did not respond to our interview request.

The insidious censorship

Descriptions of scenes taken out of context can be shocking. However, the filmmaker has had a reputation for being provocative for decades. “It’s especially irritating in a context where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make independent films and get them seen,” he says. We heard no reaction from moviegoers who found the film scandalous. »

He says he doesn’t know who the film offended. “Is it because of complaints from two people? Or some guy in the Amazon Prime Video office who saw the movie and thought it was awful? Since they do not have to justify their decision, they can withdraw the film without a word. »

In his eyes, this practice reflects social networks, which often block accounts and pages without giving a reason.


Filmmaker Bruce LaBruce

The rules are very vague and applied unevenly. It’s worse than the traditional form of censorship. You used to know that you were moralizing and that you were breaking certain rules. Today the censorship is more insidious.

Bruce LaBruce, filmmaker

Producer Nicolas Comeau speaks of a scandal. “I find it backwards. That a film by a verified artist would have a world premiere at major festivals, be distributed in commercial theaters in Quebec, the United States and France, and be disqualified from Amazon for allegedly objectionable content is beyond me. »

A work for the general public?

Ironically, Bruce LaBruce watched St. Narcissus to make a more accessible film. “Just like in the movies gerontophilia, I tried to make the transgressive aspects more digestible for people. There is no explicit sex. We tend to attack taboos symbolically. »

Even more ironic: the magazine diversity had criticized gerontophilia by writing “Bruce LaBruce goes limp”, implying that he was becoming impotent and that his films were softer than before. “Even so, they kept giving me bad reviews and saying my productions were too explicit. As we say in English: “Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.” »

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