3 SEPTEMBER 1988, Page 5


A CURIOSITY of the debate over the screening of the film, The Last Temptation of Christ, has been the frequent appear- ances of Mr James Ferman, the Secretary of the British Board of Film Censors. Mr Ferman has been heard on the radio sounding like someone on Critics' Forum as he gives his very sensitive appraisal of why the film is serious, worthwhile and so on. It is understandable that after years of watching rubbish all day (Mr Ferman has been in the job since 1975) he should want to gain a little public prominence, but even so it is a bad precedent. The members of the British Board of Film Censors should not be remarkable for their artistic sensiti- vities and should not be tempted to give artistic reasons for their decisions. They should simply be reasonably normal, reasonably intelligent citizens, capable of categorising films so that children may not see the more horrible ones and no one may see the most horrible. As long as they do this quietly, their work is, considering the anger that normally surrounds questions of censorship, surprisingly uncontroversial. But if they are to start arguing the critical toss, they will find all their judgments challenged and their respect lost.