Michael Winterbottom'scontroversial 9 Songs has been given an 18 rating from France'sclassification board, essentially qualifying it as pornographic.

Two filmindustry representative groups, the writers', directors', producers'association (ARP) and the Societe des Realisateurs de Films (SRF), which headsup Directors' Fortnight at Cannes, have both protested the decision.

In a statement, the two groupssaid, "the comparison of 9 Songs to a pornographic film constitutes agrave attack on the freedom of the distribution of works and on the freedom ofthe public'More so, the ban indicates a strengthening of the censorship of arthouse films which have explicit sex scenes."

France has one of the mostliberal censorship regimes in Europe. Most films aimed at mainstream audiencesreceive a maximum 16 certificate in France. For example, ultra violent Dobermannfrom Jan Kounen was banned entirely in Ireland but received a 16 certificate inFrance. Pulp Fiction was rated no children under 12.

One of the main hindrancesfor films which bear the 18 stamp is that they cannot be aired in prime timeand must be slotted into late night spots.

Other films to receive an 18rating include Virginie Despentes' sexually explicit Baise Moi and1979's Caligula.