Signalling that Singapore may be easing its strict film censorship stance, Gaspar Noe's controversial drama Irreversible has been cleared for an uncensored release in Singapore cinemas.

The country's Film Appeals Committee overruled the Board of Film Censors' earlier decision to screen the film with some cuts.

Committee chairman Pang Cheng Lian was quoted as saying that 'we should provide Singaporean movie-goers with greater choices as the country moves ahead', but she added that 'this does not mean that we are going to say yes to everything'.

As Singapore is known for its strict censorship rules, the move is a surprise to many in the film industry, including Storm Pictures, distributor of Irreversible in Singapore. Director Jeffrey Ong told that he didn't really expect the film to be ultimately passed uncut despite Storm Pictures' efforts to appeal.

'Two Japanese films that we released in Singapore previously - Audition and Battle Royale - were censored with cuts. When compared to these two films, Irreversible has a more graphic footage of violence and sex,' he explained.

Under Singapore laws, all films exhibited in the country must be certified by the Board of Film Censors. Irreversible, when first submitted to the Board, was rated under the Restricted (Artistic) category which only allows those above 21 to watch it. It also suffered two major cuts, including the opening murder scene when a man is beaten to death by a fire extinguisher and a brutal rape scene.

Irreversible is now showing in local cinemas on two screens. The French film was originally scheduled for release in early 2003 and was postponed due to the censorship issue.

In the coming months, Storm Pictures is lining up two R(A) rated films for release in Singapore: Marina De Van's Dans Ma Peau (In My Skin), which deals with cannibalism, and Shion Sono's Japanese mystery-comedy Suicide Club.