In a move expected to mark the most high-profile test to date of newly relaxed UK film censorship rules on sex, local indie distributor Feature Film Company has picked up all rights to controversial French rape story Baise-Moi.

The explicit story of two women on a sex and murder spree after one of them is brutally raped triggered uproar in France after courts cancelled its exhibition permit. The French government reinstated an 18 certificate after film-makers protested and many cinemas refused to pull the film.

Feature Film Co aims for a March release of the film, which is backed by StudioCanal's classics division Wild Bunch.

"Anyone who goes to see it hoping for a thrill will be disappointed," said Coralie Trinh Thi, an ex-porn actress who co-directed the film with Virginie Despentes, who wrote the cult novel on which it was based.

While Baise-Moi's brutal rape scene and its porn world cast provoked the ire of right wing pressure groups, the picture was defended in France as an auteur film. French film-makers association SRF called the cancellation of its permit an attack on freedom of expression.

Baise-Moi earnt further critical kudos when it was selected by this year's Locarno International Film Festival for competition. Feature Film Company managing director David Holloway called the film "a production of exceptional qualities".

The distributor's acquisition comes after the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) said in September that it would relax its restrictions on '18' -rated films as part of an overhaul of certification guidelines. The BBFC conducted a public survey which found that adults wanted to watch films without excessive intervention but wanted more protection for children.

Coinciding with this more relaxed stance towards adult content on the part of British censors came news that two notorious sex films, Deep Throat and Debbie Does Dallas, have now been granted certificates allowing both to be shown uncut. That decision came two months after the BBFC eased its rules regarding adult videos.

But crucially for Baise-Moi, which features full penetration, BBFC director Robin Duval has said that particularly explicit sexual imagery is still a concern. In September, Duval said that the revamped '18' guidelines mean that the body: "will only intervene on the rare occasion where a film promotes violent or dangerous activities, gives instructive detail of drug use, or contains particularly explicit sexual images".