'Apocalypto' sparks ratings rumpus

Ultraviolent Gibson pic to go out unrestricted in Italy


By Nick Vivarelli
January 5, 2007

ROME A storm is brewing over "Apocalypto" in Italy, where a decision to release Mel Gibson's ultraviolent pic with a general admis-sion rating is prompting cries in parliament for a censorship board overhaul.

The film bows today in Italy, the only territory worldwide where the blood-and-guts Mayan saga -- rated R in the U.S. -- will go out unrestricted. Pic is being released wide on 320 screens via local distrib Eagle Pictures.

"It's clear that something is wrong in our control mechanisms," said Riccardo Villari, member of a parliamentary watchdog committee for kids.
Meanwhile, Gaetano Blandini, topper of the country's government film entity, has threatened to step down if planned reforms to make the censorship process more effective aren't implemented.

Italy has long been quirky in its censorship decisions. It banned Bernardo Bertolucci's "Last Tango in Paris" in the 1970s and is generally lenient toward violence but more severe about sexual or anti-religious content.
The country seems to have a bent for giving Gibson a break.

Besides clearing "Apocalypto" for all audiences, Italy is also the only country on the planet where "The Passion of the Christ" went out with a G rating.