Atom Egoyan's Where TheTruth Lies has lost its appeal tothe Motion Picture Association of America to overturn its restrictive NC-17rating.

The decision, handed downyesterday in Los Angeles, means the film will be restricted in the US topersons 18 years and over. More important, the decision could be detrimental interms of marketing and box office: some US newspaper chains refuse to carryadvertisements for NC-17 films and some US exhibitors will refuse to screensuch films for fear of offending patrons.

The film, which made itsworld premiere in competition at Cannes, follows an investigative journalist(Alison Lohman) as she delves into the past of a celebrity duo and themysterious death that lead to their break-up.

The MPAA decision came downto one pivotal scene in the film depicting a menage a trios between the duo(played by Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth) and a hotel chambermaid (played byRachel Blanchard). Egoyan argued that the scene was pivotal to the plot andthat removing it would render the mystery "incomprehensible".

Egoyan, who presented hiscase before a jury of 10 at yesterday's screening along with Blanchard, whorepresented the actors in the scene, said he was initially elated by the 6-4decision in favour of reversing the decision until he realised that a two-thirdmajority was required. The decision was one vote short.

"It was close," Egoyan, "but not close enough. This film is intended for a broadmature audience. And anything that stops that is a frustration."

He said the film wasresubmitted twice to the MPAA before its initial decision and then a third alteration was presented atyesterday's appeal. To no effect. "We'll go out with the original film," hesaid, adding "It's something of a relief."

Egoyan said that while heunderstood the intention behind the MPAA rating system he was frustrated by theratings board's ultimate refusal to see the scene in the context of the film.

"I would always, alwayssupport a responsible parent's choice to decide what their kid is going towatch in their own company," he said. "Our version would have allowed that. Ithink this is a challenging and complex film dealing with issues that relate toyoung adults in terms of how they assess celebrity and fame... I'm dismayed thata 17-year-old in the United States won't be able to watch this movie on thescreen."

It was sentiment shared byBacon and Firth, who issued their own statements in support of the film andEgoyan's intentions. Speaking to Screendaily, Blanchard pointed to an inevitableirony in the decision. "Now the scene will be put on the internet where kidswill still be able to see it but where it will be stripped of its context. Itwill have the opposite effect of the board's intention."

She added, "I've beenoffered roles in teen flicks that were rated R for nudity, and those wereracier in the sense that they would have a negative influence on youngerviewers in terms of gender stereotyping, of misogyny, of depictingirresponsible behaviour without consequences. Sure this film shows more but itreflects life, it shows consequences and it's pivotal to the plot."

In a statement producerRobert Lantos, who is chairman of THINKFilm which is releasing the filmtheatrically in the US and Canada, said, "The upside to the MPAA's decision isthat we will reinstate the film to its uncut version the way it was originallyintended to be seen. I trust that moviegoing audience will see the film for theprovocative intelligent entertainment that it was intended to be, and not astitillating fare."

Then again, at a round tablepress conference at Cannes, Lantos commented to journalists that if theythought the film was provocative in its present form, "wait until you see theDVD." Sony Pictures Home Entertainment holds home video rights on Where TheTruth Lies in the US.