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Sex may be a turn-off for Hollywood audiences but violence is all over the big screen, as filmmakers seek to capture the youth market, industry figures at the Cannes film festival said on Friday.
With online porn readily available, sex scenes are no longer prized by producers who look to action sequences or special effects to fill the gap.
“The Paperboy” in which Nicole Kidman played a woman sexually attracted to Death Row prisoners and the sex surrogate film “The Sessions” with Helen Hunt are examples of recent films with sex that flopped at the box office.
Michael Lavey, of the Los Angeles-based sales agents Taylor & Dodge, told AFP the need to pull in younger audiences was driving an explosion of violence on our screens.
“I think that young kids are just immune to violence. It’s video games, it’s almost (as if) you’ve got to have some violence for them to go (to the cinema),” he said.
“Directors could be more restrained (in their use of violence) but the smart ones are going to do what people like me say works. If they’re open to that feedback they’re going to make money,” he added.
A number films screened at Cannes over the past 10 days — including China’s “A Touch of Sin” (Tian Zhu Ding) and Japan’s “Shield of Straw” (Wara No Tate) — have shocked audiences with their levels of violence.
Mexican director Amat Escalante was forced on the defensive after his ultra-violent film “Heli” left many critics feeling queasy.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” was equally blood-spattered with one critic describing it as a “sickening pornography of violence”.
Many at a press screening found the Bangkok-set revenge drama starring the bankable Ryan Gosling almost unwatchable.
And even co-star Kristin Scott Thomas described it as “hyper violent and quite disturbing” adding “this kind of film is really not my thing”.
Edmee Cuttat, film critic for the Geneva Tribune daily, who has covered the festival for two decades, said she had witnessed an increase not in the level of violence but in the level of “gratuitous violence”.
She described “Heli” as “appalling” and said she was unable to watch “Only God Forgives” in which a man in one scene is pinned to an armchair with knives and then stabbed in the eye.
“What I don’t like is gratuitous violence. I don’t find it useful but perhaps the directors think it corresponds with the era,” she said.
Gratuitous violence would appear to have replaced gratuitous sex as a marketing tool.
Sex scenes were once written into scripts “no matter what the plot”, Vincent Bruzzese, president of the film division of market research company Ispos, was quoted as saying earlier this year by Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper.
But now producers tended to ask “do we really need the sex? Can we fill the space with special effects instead and keep the family-friendly rating?”, he added.
Indian director Dibakar Banerjee said he preferred films that used only violence essential to character and plot such as Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull”.
“That film is about a violent man who deals with everything in his life through one answer, one response. That violence is necessary.
“(But) sometimes filmmakers use violence as a way of showing off and attracting a kind of notoriety because that’s the fastest way of getting written about,” he said.
In other cases, he added, it was just “there for the lack of a better idea”.
French-born Australian filmmaker Chantal Denoux urged directors to remember the power of what was not shown.
“It is a bit like sex. Sometimes it is completely important to see the violence, however sometimes now you have the feeling it is gratuitous,” she said
“Hitchcock never shows anything but we are terrified. If the shower scene (in “Psycho”) was made today we would see blood everywhere. I think the imagination is more important,” she added.
In Thursday’s speech before the National Defense University, President Obama reflected on the concerns about “morality and accountability” raised by drone strikes. Emphasizing the importance of “clear guidelines” and intelligence gathering to properly “constrain” the use of drones, the president also maintained a firm stance on their necessity: Even though drone strikes sometimes result in civilian casualties, in many circumstances they remain the most effective option for realizing specific military objectives.As a liberal, I’m against drones essentially by reflex. At least, I used to be. Recently, I’ve begun to reconsider that view; and I’m no longer sure where I come down on the morality of drone strikes. Disturbing as I find state-sponsored violence, when drones do the killing instead of soldiers, it seems apparent that we have an easier time recognizing the violence as horrific. War, in its traditional form, distorts our moral reasoning. Drones do not. And as much it grates against my broader political commitments to say so, this is plainly a benefit of drone warfare, other shortcomings notwithstanding.Continue Reading
The New York Times editorial board examines President Obama's national security speech and stresses the importance of ending the current state of perpetual war:
President Obama’s speech on Thursday was the most important statement on counterterrorism policy since the 2001 attacks, a momentous turning point in post-9/11 America. For the first time, a president stated clearly and unequivocally that the state of perpetual warfare that began nearly 12 years ago is unsustainable for a democracy and must come to an end in the not-too-distant future.  As frustratingly late as it was — much of what Mr. Obama said should have been said years ago — there is no underestimating the importance of that statement. Mr. Obama and his predecessor, President George W. Bush, used the state of war that began with the authorization to invade Afghanistan and go after Al Qaeda and others who planned the Sept. 11 attacks to justify extraordinary acts like indefinite detention without charges and the targeted killing of terrorist suspects.
While there are some, particularly the more hawkish Congressional Republicans, who say this war should essentially last forever, Mr. Obama told the world that the United States must return to a state in which counterterrorism is handled, as it always was before 2001, primarily by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies. That shift is essential to preserving the democratic system and rule of law for which the United States is fighting, and for repairing its badly damaged global image.
The Detroit Free Press editorial board chimes in too:
In an address remarkable for both its candor and its humility, President Barack Obama sought Thursday to limit the scope of his predecessor’s global war on terror, pivoting from a full-court campaign of military pre-emption to a new era of proportionality and political engagement. 
This page and others who criticized the Bush administration for overstepping its authority have expressed disappointment at the degree to which Obama has aped and even exacerbated the sins of his predecessor. That the president has followed this path with the tacit approval of lawmakers in both parties is no excuse; as Obama himself admitted Thursday, many Bush-era practices long ago outlived their usefulness. 
A single speech will scarcely bring about the sea change Obama seeks. But the shift in focus and tactics that he outlined Thursday is both worthwhile and long overdue, and America’s long-term efforts to contain terrorism can only be enhanced by its swift implementation.
More on this story below the fold.
The NationObama's Speech on Drone PolicyNew York TimesFollowing is a transcript of President Obama's speech on U.S. drone and counterterror policy, as provided by the White House: The Caucus. Analysis of Key Points from Obama's Speech on Drones. One outstanding question is how transparent the Obama Republicans criticize Obama over call for repeal of 2001 use of force lawFox NewsWhat Mattered in Obama's Speech Today: Ending the Open-Ended 'War on Terror'The AtlanticBarack Obama struggles to redefine the 'war on terror'The GuardianWired -ABC News -Pentagon Postall 43 news articles »