In 1990, the Motion Picture Association of America invented the NC-17 rating to slap on Henry & June (Saturday, April 16, Dryden Theatre, 8 p.m., 271-4090, $6), Philip Kaufman's look at the stormy and steamy relationship between writers Anais Nin and Henry Miller and their muse, Henry's wife June. Not explicit enough for an X rating but too dirty for an R, the MPAA decreed that if you were under 17 you couldn't see Henry & June, no matter what your parents said. This rating became equal to a cinematic kiss of death, with Henry & June and Showgirls as the only NC-17 films ever to gross over $10 million.
Maria de Medeiros, she of the lovely silent-film face, plays Nin as a woman puzzled and intrigued by the larger-than-life Millers, portrayed by the coarse, funny Fred Ward. See also a 19-year-old Uma Thurman, all lush and throaty as the woman who inspired these two literary giants to great heights. Luckily, the Oscar-nominated cinematography showcasing 1930s Paris distracts from the forgivably hammy melodrama.
Henry & June serves as an interesting anthropological snapshot to illustrate what caused knee-jerk reactions in the pre-Clinton era --- the swearing, the sexuality --- but 15 years later it all seems so quaint.
--- Dayna Papaleo