- The Washington Times - Friday, July 10, 2009

“Bruno,” the new faux-documentary-style comedy from star Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles, was awarded an R rating after some of the more salacious sequences that originally netted it an NC-17 were cut and covered up. Still, Mr. Baron Cohen and Mr. Charles have turned out one of the dirtiest movies in history. If this is the new standard for R, what famously explicit films also would make the cut?

1. “Last Tango in Paris” — There’s a famous scene in Bernardo Bertolucci’s classic involving Marlon Brando’s posterior and a stick of butter. “Bruno” has upped the ante by trading butter for a champagne bottle and Mr. Brando for a gay pygmy.

2. “A Clockwork Orange” — Stanley Kubrick’s X-rated masterpiece is a shocking portrait of ultraviolence and sexual depravity; it was pulled from British circulation by Mr. Kubrick himself and stayed out of theaters and video stores in the United Kingdom until his death.

3. “Midnight Cowboy” — One wonders if “Midnight Cowboy” might almost squeeze by with a PG-13 rating these days. It’s practically impossible to remember a time when drug use and prostitution caused moral outrage at the censor boards.

4. “Henry & June” — The first film to receive the NC-17, “Henry & June” is a tale of passion and love that was too much for the Motion Picture Association of America to handle on its release in 1990. Coming before “Seinfeld” made the term “menage a trois” a household joke — and before “Bruno” depicted a real-life one on the big screen — one thinks this is an easy R nowadays.

5. “Showgirls” — Noted auteur of excess Paul Verhoeven somehow got a major studio to pony up $45 million and back a wide release for “Showgirls,” a movie he intentionally dirtied up to receive an NC-17. That picture would induce yawns in the PB (post-“Bruno”) era.